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Ralph The Heir

London, Hurst and Blackett, 1871. 3v. Originally published in Saint Paul's Magazine, Supplement, Jan. 1870- July 1871.

The estate of Newton Priory, occupied by Gregory Newton, was entailed to his nephew Ralph, although it was a great grief to him that it could not go to his natural son, also named Ralph, who lived there with him. Ralph, the heir, became involved in debt, and to extricate himself proposed to marry Polly Neefit, daughter of a breechesmaker to whom he was heavily indebted, her father having agreed to cancel the debts and to give £20,000 along with his daughter. Polly firmly refused to become a “lady;’ preferring her own choice, Ontario Moggs, son of a bootmaker.

As an alternative to marriage, Ralph considered selling the reversion of his interest in Newton Priory to his uncle. This plan met the approval of Gregory as it would allow him to leave the estate legally to his son, but the transaction was not complete when Gregory was killed on the hunting field, and Ralph the heir succeeded. The Ralph who was not the heir received £40,000 in his father’s will with which he bought a property in Norfolk, where he took his bride, Mary Bonner. Sir Thomas Underwood, father of Clarissa and Patience, and earlier guardian of Ralph, the heir lawyer of note and a former MP was persuaded to contest Percycross but was defeated. His daughter Clarissa who had thought herself in love with Ralph, the heir, was finally disillusioned by his fickleness and married the Rev. Gregory Newton, Rector of Newton Peele, who for years had loved her devotedly.


The account of the Percycross election in which Sir Thomas Underwood was defeated, and of the subsequent petition, is almost autobiographical of Trollope's own experience at Beverley, and is told with humor and spirit.

This was the novel of which Charles Reade afterwards took the plot and made on it a play. I have always thought it to he one of the worst novels I have written, and almost to have justified that dictum that a novelist after fifty should not write love-stories.