- Paperback: 800 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (December 28, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141441208
- ISBN-13: 978-0141441207
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.5 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 43 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Eustace Diamonds (Penguin Classics) Revised Edition
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About the Author
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) was born in London to a bankrupt barrister father and a mother who, as a well-known writer, supported the family. Trollope enjoyed considerable acclaim both as a novelist and as a senior civil servant in the Post Office. He published more than forty novels and many short stories that are regarded by some as among the greatest of nineteenth-century fiction.
Stephen Gill is a professor of English literature at Oxford University, a fellow of Lincoln College, and editor of Selected Poems by William Wordsworth.
John Sutherland is Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and wrote the introduction to Chekhov’s The Shooting Party for Penguin Classics.
Top customer reviews
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We have two heroines.
a) Lizzie Greystock becomes Lady Eustace and soon a rich widow. She is a beauty and smart and greedy and deeply ignorant (`she was quick as a lizard in turning hither and thither, but knew almost nothing'), who is not clear about the legal implications of her inheritance and has no friends with the practical knowledge to advise her against the legal forces that her in-laws activate against her. This is a typical Trollope woman: we understand her problems, but are not expected to like her.
b) Lucy Morris is a poor governess with a personality, with charming manners, and with a rational mind. She loves a man of whom she knows that he needs a rich wife, hence she expects little. Trollope talks down to her with a kind of patronizing respect. She is a typical Trollope woman: we like her but can't quite see the way out for her.
The man is Frank Greystock, Lizzie's cousin, a young barrister and Member of Parliament, who could well use his cousin's money. He is a bit of an opportunist, but not an entirely bad character at all. Unfortunately he is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character. His Jekyll version does all the right things and behaves decently, but when Hyde comes over him, all rules are off.
Frank represents the conservatives in the house, though he has no convictions to speak of. A barrister doesn't need any.
(This gives Trollope a reason to muse about conservatives in general, and his comments are quite amusing. He had run for parliament himself, as a `radical', meaning a candidate for the Liberal Party, and had lost badly. He calls himself a `conservative liberal'.)
There is another suitor for Lizzie, Lord Fawn, who can give her a peerage, but he is miserably poor for an aristocrat and politician, and he needs her money as badly as Greystock. His family hates Lizzie as much as her first set of in-laws. The woman is marvelously good ad attracting dislike.
The main theme of the plot is a legal entanglement and dispute: who is the rightful owner of the diamonds that the Eustace family considers part of the family property and that Lizzie considers a gift from her husband. That may look like an easy issue, but if you think so, you must have forgotten all that you know of the English legal system of the time from Dickens and others. (Not sure if it has changed since.)
Lizzie is stubborn and will not give up the diamonds, which endangers her engagement with Lord Fawn and her cousin's friendship with the Fawn family. The issue becomes a favorite subject of rumors and false claims in London society.
Lord Fawn is neither rich nor important, but he is an Under-Secretary in the Whig government, serving the India Secretary, while Lizzie's champion is a rising star of the Tories. Hence there is a political dimension to the dispute.
And don't forget the India angle! Like the Moonstone in Collins, the Eustace diamonds have their exotic originals as well! And of course the underworld learns about the stones and has special interests devoted to them.
What an entertaining mess!
But not always. Anthony Trollope’s novels feature heroes and heroines who were more complicated amalgams of virtues and flaws, and in many ways they are more realistic and interesting as a result. But probably none of them was as deeply shocking as The Eustace Diamonds. It tells the disturbing tale of Lizzie Greystock, who calculatingly marries a Sir Florian Eustace who is dying of tuberculosis, to inherit his wealth and lift herself out of the genteel poverty she cannot bear. He duly passes away, leaving her a wealthy widow and leaving her also the fabulously valuable diamond necklace referred to in the title, which immediately becomes the subject of a long-running dispute between her and her late husband’s family. She married crassly for money and greedily clings to it, and to the family jewels, through all the twists and turns of this delightfully acidic romp through high-Victorian society.
How scandalized the reading public of the time was by a main female character, who was so suavely repulsive. Her own aunt denounces her with the contempt born of familiarity: "She's about as bad as anybody ever was. She's false, dishonest, heartless, cruel, irreligious, ungrateful, mean, ignorant, greedy, and vile!" The wealthy widow spends much of this long book, trying to decide which of four possible husbands, all of whom need to marry money as she herself had done, would be most to her calculated matrimonial advantage. Lord Fawn has his tile and a fairly high position in Government, but he is snobbish and a booby. Her cousin Frank, who is the hero of book, has no title but is a good man who has bright prospects as a barrister; unfortunately, he is already engaged to a modest and likable woman, but this of course does not stop Lizzie.
The third penniless candidate is Lord George, a rakish and despicable rogue who brings a sense of adventure as well as his title. And fourth comes Mr. Emilius, a scheming and disreputable clergyman. And here Trollope really shocks again – portraying a man of the cloth as unscrupulous and repulsive would have been deeply shocking to a contemporary audience. But Lizzie is intrigued by him nonetheless. Here is her view of him: “…he was a greasy, fawning, pawing, creeping, black-browed rascal, who could not look her full in the face, and whose every word sounded like a lie...There was an oily pretense at earnestness in his manner which ought to have told her that he was not fit to associate with gentlemen." Can you imagine?
It is a rollicking, many-faceted story of the great folly of marrying for money and of the resounding sin that lying is, shaking human relationships to their core. The Eustace Diamonds is a delicious dark comedy, with outrageous plot developments; the story twists and turns like a rattlesnake on its fascinating mission of malice. And yet, outraged propriety is rescued at the end, the scoundrels all get their just deserts, the few good people in this rollicking story find their way safely home in the end. It will make you a Trollope fan forever.