When Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now was published in 1875, many critics were very disappointed in the author they had come to respect. A review in The Spectator reveals a typical reaction to the novel, which was a bit racy by Victorian standards.
Mr. Trollope's novels are to us among the enjoyments of life, but it is with the greatest difficulty that we have read through The Way We Live Now. The author has made a mistake, which he made once before in the disagreeable story called Brown, Jones, and Robinson, and has surrounded his characters with an atmosphere of sordid baseness which prevents enjoyment like an effluvium. The novel, which is unusually long, is choked with characters, all of whom, with perhaps two exceptions, are seeking dirty ways mean ends. . . Mr. Trollope is so rarely inaccurate, that we suppose there is somewhere a world like that he describes; and so somewhere among the marshes there is a sewage-farm.
This critic, like so many readers, did not care to hear about a world of corruption. Just as he would prefer not to imagine things like sewage, this reviewer is appalled no doubt at the actions of characters like Melmotte and Felix Carbury. He neglects to acknowledge that there exists much corruption in this world of ours.
Townsend, Meredith White. The Spectator 48, No. 245 (June 26, 1875).
Last modified 3 November 2000.