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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

First glimpse of the political life - and the first "Dear John" letter - in Can You Forgive Her?

Alice Vavasor writes to her finace, John Grey, what may be the original source of the term a "Dear John" letter - she won't go so far as to tell him she's breaking off their ridiculous engagement but she says I won't marry you this year, maybe next year. And John, sedentary and dull in his Cambridgeshire home, where he expects Alice to settle down with hm for an extraordinarily boring life, writes that he'll come right away to London to discuss this with her. Can't he see? Can't he read? She's not that into him! Trollope is to put in mildly not the most introspective of novelists, but we are getting to see a bit more what makes Alice tick, as she indicates she wants more out of life than Cambridgeshire (Trollope can be quite funny at times - and his account of C-shire as the most boring of all English scenery is a good example). Amusingly, she notes that god forfend she's not thinking about becoming a doctor or a lawyer - Trollope is forward thinking but his characters don't push boundaries in that way - but she would like a life that makes a difference, and she thinks a little about her cousin George's campaign for Parliament (as a Radical - we don't know exactly what that means in the 1860s, but hats off to Trollope!), the first glimpse of what this novel, Can You Forgive Her?, as the first in the Palliser series may become - not the conventional English novel of love lost and regained, but an account of power politics at work in the Victorian era. George is so obviously the right partner for Alice, but he's also so obviously a difficult and independent man, not the easiest catch and not the easiest life partner.

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