Gamblers and Gentlefolk: Money, Law and Status in Trollope's England
25 Pages Posted: 5 May 2016
Date Written: February 10, 2016
This paper examines the range of very different conceptions of money and its legal and social significance in the novels of Anthony Trollope, considering what they can tell us about the rapidly changing economic, political and social world of mid Victorian England. It concentrates in particular on Orley Farm (1862) - the novel most directly concerned with law among Trollope’s formidable output - and The Way We Live Now (1875) - the novel most directly concerned with the use and abuse of money in the early world of financial capitalism. The paper sets the scene by sketching the main critiques of money in the history of the novel. Drawing on a range of literary examples, it notes that these critiques significantly predate the development of industrial let alone financial capitalism. Probably the deepest source of ambivalence about money in the novel has to do with ‘commodification’. As this concern unfolds in Trollope, it tells us a great deal about changing conceptions of property in a world in which industrial capitalism sat alongside practices of speculative investment geared simply to the multiplication of money. Trollope’s nostalgia for the world of land sits alongside an increasingly sharp critique of the power of money, and these novels illuminate the rapidly changing economic, political and social world of mid Victorian England. They also speak, as it were, volumes on the relative effectiveness of the different regulatory resources which can be brought to bear upon each form of wealth. And they open some fascinating windows on the gendering of both money and law as concepts in the later Victorian imagination.
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