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The Author

Frances Milton Trollope (1779 – 1863) was an English novelist. Her first book, Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) has been the best known, but she also published strong social novels: an anti-slavery novel said to influence the work of the American Harriet Beecher Stowe, the first industrial novel, and two anti-Catholic novels that used a Protestant position to examine self-making. Her first and third sons, Thomas Adolphus and Anthony, also became writers; Anthony Trollope became respected for his social novels. She received more attention during her lifetime for what are considered several strong novels of social protest: Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw (1836) was the first anti-slavery novel, influencing the American Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy began publication in 1840 and was the first industrial novel to be published in Britain. Other socially conscious novels included The Vicar of Wrexhill (1837), which took on corruption in the Church of England and evangelical circles. Possibly her greatest work is the Widow Barnaby trilogy (1839–1855).  

The Novel

The Widow Barnaby is a witty satire about a vulgar, heartless, outrageously flirtatious widow of a village pharmacist who poses as a lady of great fortune. The novel is significant in its focus on a more mature woman and her social significance. In her hunt for a rich second husband, Martha Barnaby drags her beautiful but penniless niece from watering place to watering place. The Widow Barnaby introduces the character of a widow, bringing this vulgar yet wholly credible figure to life. The novel takes a picaresque tour of England, landing the widow, Martha, and her put-upon niece in increasingly fashionable locales. In some ways, the book reads like a considerably more genteel version of Tobias Smollett's Humphry Clinker.

Contemporary Review

It is with great pleasure we recommend our readers to bear the Widow company, fearing nothing. They will be presently enchained in the interest of the tale; it proceeds naturally, cheerfully, steadily. The account of her earliest exploits, as Miss Martha Compton, is almost worthy of the authoress of Pride and Prejudice; higher praise we scarcely know how to give. We will add nothing more, save a recommendation, to all who wish amusement, to take a peep at the last and most wonderful of the Widows— the gigantic, over-dressed, and self-complacent Widow Barnaby. — The Athenæum, 1839

Ficção e literatura
Silver Fork Novels

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