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[112] The Eustace Diamonds – Anthony Trollope

diamond.jpg“The world is so false, so material, so worldly! One gives out one’s heart, and gets in return nothing but dust and ashes–nothing but ashes and dust.” (175)

Despite his prospect of an early death, Sir Florian Eustace falls in love with Lizzie Greystock, beautiful, charming, and somewhat supercilious, and whose voice to him is that of a goddess. Following his death six months after they get married, Lizzie Eustace suspiciously comes into possession of a hugely expensive diamond necklace, which she adamantly maintains it was a personal gift from her late husband. As to the origin of this necklace, Trollope is vague. But it’s said that there must have been qualms as Lizzie looks at Lord Florian’s dying face, soured with disappointment that she has brought upon him, and some pang when she reflects the cruel wrong that she inflicts on him, for she is heartless, vain, and full of wiles.

Mr. Camperdown, acting on behalf of the Eustace family with which Lizzie breaks tie after the second year of her widowhood, earnestly seeks the restoration of these heirloom jewels, which she has firmly asserted her intention of keeping. At any rate the necklace represents an amount of property that shouldn’t be made over legally without visible evidence of transfer. Of the manner in how the diamonds have been placed in her hands, no one knows more than she chooses to tell. While she has endavored to avoid meeting the importunating lawyer, she entertains the thought that marriage to an unctuous Lord Fawn, member of the government, will put her in a secure position in the event that she has to surrender the jewels.

As rumors of her being a reprobate flies, and gossips intensify, Lizzie’s truthfulness is thrown into doubt. For fear of muddling with the action for the recovery of jewels brought against a lady whom he is entangled to marry on behalf of family of her late husband, Lord Fawn will only marry Lizzie if she surrenders the necklace to neutral hands. Although he covets money, but unlike Lizzie, Lord Fawn is honest and conscious of his name. So Lizzie’s hope for a strength in connection to him turns into a despise, for he refuses to support her greed and falsehoods.

On wit’s end to keep the necklace, Lizzie is lonely and desperate for a companion. She hesitates to declare her love for her cousin, Frank Greystock, who is engaged to a poor but upright governess Lucy Morris. That the governess has captivated Frank without charm, beauty or wiles, and that Lucy’s simplicity is much stronger than Lizzie’s craft make Lizzie burnt with jealousy. As an unfortunate contingency descends on the necklace, Lizzie perpetrates some desperate acts that make many people around her suffer.

The Eusctace Diamonds shows how Trollope is deeply concerned by the way men behave in society, by the codes of conduct they erect and then defy, and throughout the novel he uses every means to throw into relief those aspects of society. What is better (and more apopos of) than a priceless diamond necklace’s being the symbol of vanity and the expression of Lizzie’s empty and false personality that taints all her human relationships. As contention of the diamond’s proprietorship evolves with twists, the necklace becomes means to elaborate perversion of ideal human values into worldly ones. The ideal treasure of the human soul, namely, love and honesty are subverted. The division between truth and lie becomes warped. As society sees Lizzie’s lies as cleverness, Trollope variously dubs her lies as shams, fictions, schemes and wiles, but this is largely mimicry of her own moral ineptitude and iniquity.

3 Responses

  1. I’ve never read ANYTHING by Trollope! Shame on me!

  2. I had a friend a number of years ago who savored Trollope very much and had read a number of his works. He did not suffer gladly my attempts at shallow humor play on this author’s surname. He patiently directed me to Jane Austen as possibly someone easier to appreciate; and indeed, I did. Later, I inherited one of his volumes of Trollope; it’s around the house somewhere, double stacked behind another book, I suspect. I perhaps should seek it out and place it on the to-be-read pile to redress my earlier gaffe. Alas, the books go on faster than they come off.

  3. Andi:
    Oh you’ll have enjoy Trollope a great deal. He certainly takes his name delineating his characters, who often have to cope with society’s demands by pushing themselves to the limit of their principles. I think I’ll read another of his later, before the end of the year.

    Greg S:
    I saw a copy of Complete Jane Austen at the mall in Kuala Lumpur for RM39, about USD 11 but it’s too bulky to carry. I’ll read The Way We Live Now by Trollope in a bit.

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