The Way We Live Now

:"For the Susan Sontag short story, see "The Way We Live Now (short story)"."

"The Way We Live Now" is a scathing satirical novel published in London in 1875 by Anthony Trollope, after a popular serialisation. It was regarded by many of Trollope's contemporaries as his finest work.

One of his longest novels (it contains a hundred chapters), "The Way We Live Now" is particularly rich in sub-plot. It was inspired by the financial scandals of the early 1870s, and lashes at the pervading dishonesty of the age, commercial, political, moral, and intellectual. It is one of the last significant Victorian novels to have been published in monthly parts.

Plot summary

Augustus Melmotte is a foreign-born financier with a mysterious past. His settling in London erupts in a great deal of talk and scheming from members of the local community, most notably, the Carburys. Lady Carbury, a widow caring for her lazy, good-for-nothing, gambling son Felix and intelligent daughter Henrietta, plots to settle her family's financial difficulties by marrying handsome Felix to Marie Melmotte, Melmotte's daughter.

Meanwhile, Melmotte works hard to become a member of society and set up a new financial sham involving a railroad in the United States and Mexico. Enter Paul Montague, a young engineer and the ward of the Carburys' cousin Roger. Not long after Paul and Henrietta meet, they become romantically involved, which results in confusion, as Roger is in love with Henrietta and Paul is engaged to a somewhat wild American woman. Despite his mind being wrapped up in the romantic mess he has gotten himself into, Paul manages to get involved in Melmotte's railroad business and discovers that the older man has no intention of actually building a railroad.

Marie Melmotte is wooed by Sir Felix Carbury, who proves himself to be a decent actor and tricks the girl into thinking that he is in love with her. Although involved with a lower-standing woman named Ruby, Felix and Marie make plans to elope, as Melmotte disapproves greatly of Felix. However their plans are foiled, Marie returns to her father in the hope that Felix is still in love with her and will attempt to marry her, again. But Felix rashly decides that he's had enough of Marie, and tells Henrietta to inform Marie of such. Heartbroken, Marie's feelings towards her ex-fiance turn completely around. Felix, unhindered by the events, carries on his business with Ruby, until that, too, comes to a sudden halt.

With Paul Montague's knowledge of the railroad's inexistence, Melmotte remains surprisingly calm. He manages get himself elected into Parliament, despite the negative comments about him printed in the local newspaper by Paul's friend (Mr Alf) and the prejudice against him as a foreigner.

Lady Carbury, greatly upset by Felix's rejection of Marie Melmotte, goes back to writing uninspired novels, as she had before. Her good friend Mr Broune helps sell the books by giving them good reviews. Henrietta, meanwhile, struggles with her love for Paul once she becomes aware (through Felix) of his amour with the American (Mrs Hurtle). Eventually, Henrietta cannot ignore the powerful feelings shared between herself and Paul, and the two of them become engaged, with the blessing of Roger and Mrs Hurtle (after some conflict). At about the same time, Lady Carbury is proposed to by Mr Broune and she accepts happily.

There is also the tale of Georgiana Longstaffe, the sister of Felix's friend Adolphus Longstaffe. Georgiana comes to stay with the Melmottes, despite her father's comments, and there she becomes acquainted with a Jewish widower named Mr Brehgert. The two become engaged, as Georgiana softens, but they abruptly separate later on.

With Paul's story on the unbuilt railroad and growing financial troubles, Melmotte begs for help from his daughter, as he put a large sum of money into a bank account under her name for protection. Cold-hearted since Felix's confession of his indifference towards her, Marie refuses to assist Melmotte and, her father commits suicide shortly thereafter. Realising that nothing of interest remains for her in London, Marie packs her bags, sells the house, and leaves.

The novel ends with Paul and Henrietta's wedding, the revelation that Mr Broune and Lady Carbury are married and putting up with Felix, who hasn't changed a bit, and that Ruby has married a more reliable man.


It has been adapted for television in 1969 and 2001 by the BBC. It was also adapted for radio (and re-set in the present day) under the title "The Way We Live Right Now" in 2008 as a "Woman's Hour" drama serial.

Popular culture

*Susan Sontag borrowed Trollope's title for her 1986 short story "The Way We Live Now" about the AIDS epidemic.
*Barry Brown borrowed the title for his 1970 film "The Way We Live Now"
*"The New York Times Magazine" borrows the title for a column on contemporary mores.
*A song of the same name was released by Saint Etienne on their album Finisterre.


External links

* [ "The Way We Live Now"] – complete book in HTML one page for each chapter.
* [ "The Way We Live Now"] – unabridged public domain audiobook on

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