"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

July 16, 2011

"The Kelly's and the O'Kelly's" by Anthony Trollope (Book review)

Trollope's second novel - and again an Irish novel - The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848) sold just 140 copies when first published. Yet this is real Trollope, with all the hallmarks of future greatness.

It is the story of two young men, Francis O'Kelly, Lord Ballindine, and his distant relation and tenant, Martin Kelly. Both are in love. Lord Ballindine's engagement to Fanny Wyndham, a wealthy heiress, has been broken off, because her guardian Lord Cashel is machinating to marry her to his dissipated son Lord Kilcullen, but the two have not given up on each other.

Martin Kelly plans to marry Anty Lynch, an old maid who is his neighbor, at first for her money (she is a bit weak-minded, it appears), but in the course of the story the two really fall in love. The problem is her worthless brother Barry who is in earnest after her money and tries to have her locked up in a mental asylum and even murder her.

Both suitors will of course be successful, but what is more interesting is Trollope's grasp of social relationships, human character, and the competing demands of desire and conscience. Trollope's Ireland is also perfectly sensed - a pity that readers in England were not very much interested at that time.

The description of character and social comedy is more important than the love stories. Lord Ballindine and Fanny Wyndham only meet again in the last chapter, and their whole conversation consists of "My own Fanny!" and "Dear Frank!"

Get the novel on Gutenberg. 
Also read this enthusiastic review in the Guardian.