The Duke of Omnium’s eponymous children test his mettle by falling in with crooked gamblers, losing their hearts to commoners, and backing the wrong party in this newly unabridged version of a classic by one of the great novelists of Victorian England.
Poor Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium! His beloved duchess, the strong-willed Lady Glencora, has died suddenly, leaving him in charge of what today’s bloggers would call the family’s emotional labor: guiding his equally strong-willed children as they make a series of what he sees as irresponsible decisions. Although the Pallisers have always been Liberals—the present duke, in fact, served his party as prime minister in a previous novel—the eldest son and heir, young Lord Silverbridge, has decided to stand for Parliament as a Conservative. To top it off, after telling the duke he intends to marry an earl’s daughter, Silverbridge falls in love with—horrors!—an American. The duke’s daughter, the beautiful and virtuous Lady Mary, has also fallen in love with someone inappropriate: Mr. Francis Tregear, the Conservative younger son of a Cornish nobody. The late duchess supported the match, but she’s no longer around to coax her husband into it or dry her daughter’s tears when he refuses. Then the youngest Palliser, Lord Gerald, gets himself thrown out of Cambridge for sneaking off to the races and finds himself unable to cover his gambling debts. When the novel was first published in 1880, Trollope’s publisher insisted he chop it from four volumes to three. Now a team of scholars has combed through the manuscript and restored the missing 65,000 words, giving modern readers the chance to amuse themselves by guessing which they were or which they should have been: the endless fox-hunting chapters? The gravely satirical parliamentary scenes? This is the final novel in Trollope’s Palliser series, and readers of the previous five will enjoy glimpses of their important characters, such as Phineas Finn (of Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux). But Trollope’s attentive psychological portraits—especially of the shy, inflexible, honorable duke and of the ineffectively manipulative Lady Mabel Grex, the one-time sweetheart of both Francis Tregear and Lord Silverbridge—make the book stand on its own.
A thoroughly satisfying classic for those who love long, slow Victorian family dramas.