In a letter Trollope wrote on 8 July 1875 to Mary Holmes of Grenfell, New South Wales, he gives us an insider's look at what he thought about the characters in The Way We Live Now:

What you say of the faults of Montagu's character is quite true, — though your strictures do not go far enough. The character is badly done throughout, and fails in interest. Hetta also is bad, and you are quite right in saying that Mrs Hurtle, (who is well done) is kept too long on the stage. But she was wanted to give an interest to the last chapters, as Hetta &c were uninteresting. All which you found out.

Melmotte however is good, and the Longestaffes, and Nidderdale all the "rowdy" lot. And I think I am right in presuming that such people as the Longestaffes would object to the desecration of a Jew alliance. [Letters, II, 660]

It is always interesting to learn an author's estimates of his success and failure and to get some idea of his ways of working. What do you think was Mary Holmes' criticism of the characters? What grounds or standards does the novelist seem to use in evaluating his own success? Does Trollope defend his characters on the ground that they are realistic? (See the last sentence quoted.)


Trollope, Anthony. The Letters. Ed. N. John Hall with Nina Burgis. 2 vols. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1983.

Last modified 16 September 2000