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Is Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875) about the ‘commercial profligacy of the age’?

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-763
Number of pages13
JournalReview of English Studies
Volume67
Issue number281
Early online date26 Feb 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

Abstract

This article argues that Anthony Trollope’s celebrated financial satire The Way We Live Now (1875) is not best regarded in the terms the novelist told us to regard it: that is, as an assault on ‘the commercial profligacy of the age’. If this is true, then it is so only in the most general sense. But Trollope’s own experiences with money in the years before the novel, discussed in this article, suggest that he was intriguingly un-self-conscious about his personal relationship with money and always declined to perceive in his financial practices any reason to reflect on the morals of legitimate business. Examining the documentary evidence of Trollope’s attitudes to finance in his own life, the essay concludes that The Way We Live Now continues the novelist’s private assumptions by declining to probe the unsettling question of the ethics of capitalism within the law. To this extent, one of the most famous financial satires in the nineteenth century, concentrating on criminal acts in business, deflects one the hardest questions of its (and our) day on to an easy one.

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