Summary of The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope

The Duke’s Children is a novel by Anthony Trollope, published 1880, the last in the ‘Palliser’ series. Glencora, the duchess of Omnium, encourages Frank Tregear, a young Conservative with little fortune, in his suit to her daughter Lady Mary Palliser, but after the death of the duchess Tregear has no one to plead his cause with the Liberal duke, and the match is broken off. Meanwhile, the duke is anxious at the behaviour of his eldest son and heir, Lord Silverbridge. Sent down from Oxford as a result of his wild behaviour, Silverbridge immerses himself in London club life, and becomes well known for his interest in horse racing. He becomes part-owner, with the unsavoury Major Tifto, of a racehorse waggishly named ‘The Prime Minister’, and loses £70,000 betting on its performances in the Derby and St Leger. The duke pays his son’s debts and hints that marriage might help him to settle down, whereupon Silverbridge admits his involvement with an impoverished but well-born cousin of Tregear’s, Lady Mabel Grex, who is herself in love with Tregear, though she knows she can never afford to marry him. Tregear finds a seat in Parliament, finally convincing the duke of his political and personal integrity. The duke sanctions his marriage to Lady Mary, and is prepared to encourage Silverbridge’s marriage to Lady Mabel, when he discovers that his son has fallen in love with the brilliant American Isabel Boncassen. He finds it hard to reconcile himself to the idea of a wedding between a future duke of Omnium and a girl whose family has risen from obscurity in two generations, even though Mr Boncassen is a respected scholar, but Silverbridge’s determination and Isabel’s charm makes him give way gracefully in the end. Lady Mabel, a character of tragic dimensions, is left to solitary disappointment. The novel combines political interests with Trollope’s characteristic concern with the role of loyalty and inheritance in courtship. It also reflects his changing views of American culture, and of parent-child relationships.

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