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Americans In Trollope’s Works

Although Trollope always felt that his mother’s book, The Domestic Manners of the Americans, was somewhat less than generous, the American characters he portrayed in his own novels are far from eulogistic. Of the thirty-four who played any but incidental roles, Hamilton Fisker, Mahomet Moss and the Lefroy brothers were rogues; Gerald O’Mahony a loud-mouthed and irresponsible agitator; Phineas Beekard and Hetta Bell religious fanatics, narrow-minded and dictatorial; Olivia Q. Peabody, Wallachia Petric and Rachel O’Mahony strong-minded women in search of a career–of the sort Trollope constantly decried; while Winifred Hurtle, Lucinda Roanoke, Madame Socani and Ella Peacocke were none of them equipped with a lily-white past. He notes one scholar, Ezekiel Boncassen, but deplores the fact that his father was “an Anierican labouring man”; two diplomats, Elias Gotobed, who accepted English hospitality, the while criticizing his hosts and their society openly, and Jonas Spaulding, an ineffectual Ambassador to Italy. Miss Ophelia Gledd, probably drawn from Kate Field, is described as having such an inferiority complex that, though she is shown as a favorite in Boston society, she feared that she would not he considered a “lady” in English society – an idea quite foreign to the real Kate Field. Isabel Boncassen is charming and beautiful, though her mental attainments are felt to he lower than would he desirable in the high position she is to occupy as the wife of Lord Silverbridge. All in all, Trollope’s American portraits fall far short of his English ones. His very Britishness made any other result impossible.