He Knew He Was Right, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Anthony Trollope's story of one man's obsessive self-deception pitted against against the enduring power of his wife's love, "He Knew He Was Right" is edited with an introduction by Frank Kermode in "Penguin Classics".

On a visit to the Mandarin Islands, Louis Trevelyan falls in love with Emily, the daughter of the governor, and they are swiftly married and return to live in London.

But when a friend of Emily's father - the meddlesome libertine Colonel Osborne - starts paying rather too much attention to the young woman, Louis is consumed by jealousy and refuses to listen to his wife's pleas of innocence. And as his suspicions become increasingly obsessive and the marriage collapses, Louis finds himself driven to desperate actions.

In "He Knew He Was Right", Trollope created a highly sympathetic portrait of a deeply troubled marriage, and a compelling psychological story of sexual obsession in his portrait of a nineteenth-century Othello.

In his introduction, Frank Kermode discusses Victorian attitudes to courtship and marriage, compares the novel to "Othello" and places it in the context of Trollope's other works. This edition also includes a new chronology, a bibliography and notes.

Anthony Trollope (1815-82) had an unhappy childhood characterised by a stark contrast between his family's high social standing and their comparative poverty.

He wrote his earliest novels while working as a Post Office inspector, but did not meet with success until the publication of the first of his 'Barsetshire novels', "The Warden" (1855).

As well as writing over forty novels, including such popular works as "Can You Forgive Her?" (1865), "Phineas Finn" (1869), "He Knew He Was Right" (1869) and "The Way We Live Now" (1875) Trollope is credited with introducing the postbox to England.

If you enjoyed "He Knew He Was Right", you might enjoy Trollope's "The Way We Live Now", also available in "Penguin Classics".


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780140433913



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Anthony Trollope's 1869 novel <i>He Knew He Was Right</i> is essentially a Victorian-dress <i>Othello</i>, with the main plot concerning the raving jealousy of one Louis Trevelyan, a well-to-do gentleman ("well-to-do" in this instance being £3,000 per annum, which seems to translate to roughly U.S. $500k/yr. these days; Trollope has been called the most money-conscious of the Victorian novelists, and he scandalised his nation when he admitted to enjoying the remuneration he received for his scribblings) who occasionally writes articles for one review or another, over his spirited wife's friendship with an older man, one Colonel Frederic Osborne: as Trevelyan's suspicions deepen he gradually loses his grip on reality and slips into madness. The book also, incidentally, contains what the <i>Oxford English Dictionary</i> says is the first recorded use of the term "private detective," at least according to the endnote provided by Frank Kermode (p. 828; the term is first dropped in Chapter 19, "Bozzle, The Ex-Policeman," p. 166). The title is a bit of a red herring, BTW: Louis Trevelyan is far from being the only character in the book who "knows" that "he was right," with his tropic-reared wife being the most obvious countervailing figure; but essentially <i>every</i> character who's given any sort of time in the spotlight is dead certain that he (or she...) is right. In addition to examining male-female relationships from a variety of perspectives (and not always to the credit of the males), Trollope manages some jibes at feminists, one of his pet peeves, it seems. While I was ready for this book to be finished, its "shoes" didn't pinch nearly as much as those provided by Dickens (see, for example, <i>David Copperfield</i>).

Review by

At well over 800 pages long, this is a novel that demands a serious level of commitment! Personally I think it's a pity that Trollope is regarded as such an unfashionable author (not helped for being known as John Major's favourite novelist). There's actually a great deal of humour in Trollope's novels, often rather tongue in cheek, and lightly handled. He's also very aware of the position of women in his society. This novel deals with the marriage of Louis and Emily Trevelyan, whose flawed relationship is placed in contrast to many other marriages that take place by the end of the novel, and many times he makes the point that, for women in Victorian England, marriage was pretty much the only means of finding financial security.Trollope is very good at charting the downward spiral of Louis, and his descent into near-madness, as a result of his unreasonable jealousy of the attention paid to his wife by Colonel Osborne, an old friend of her father. He accuses her of infidelity, and matters reach such a point that the couple split up. They continue to wrangle over custody of their young son, and Emily does her best to reach out to her husband, but he is utterly inflexible, and she is too proud to pretend that something happened between her and Osborne when it didn't.The novel has many subplots, including the amusing tale of the Rev Gibson, who is pursued relentlessly by two awful sisters, Arabella and Camilla French. Trollope's awful characters are always amusing, but rarely are they caricatures (the fearsome Jemima Stanbury, for instance, learns to unbend as a result of the companionship of her long-suffering niece, Dorothy, whom she comes to love dearly).Although this is a long novel, it's not 'difficult', and - if you don't mind a bit of Victorian long-windedness - very entertaining. [January 2008]

Review by

Mainly about the quarrel which arises between Emily Trevelyan and her husband Louis over her friendship with Colonel Osborne, known to be a home-wrecker, but a friend of Emily's father. This quarrel escalates into a separation and then Louis becomes unreasonable and finally mad. Other strands include the romance between Emily's sister Nora and Louis' friend Hugh, who writes for a newspaper and therefore is seen as slightly "Bohemian", the romances of Dorothy, Hugh's sister, and finally the romance of a former suitor of Nora's who dares to marry an American.While there were enjoyable sections in this novel; the irrational whims of Miss Stanbury, Mr Gibson's various mishaps, Sir Marmeduke's complete ineffectuality as a govenerner and the appalling Wallachia, I struggled with much of the rest:1. Emily's intransigence throughout - obviously Louis becomes impossible to reason with, but for my money, she brought it all on herself. I don't like either Emily or Louis very much and sympathized with neither.2. How old was the child Louis supposed to be? - I thought he was 10 months old at the beginning of the quarrel and then months later he seems to be a much older child.3. The whole deathbed forgiveness thing was nauseating (although, I suppose, very Victorian).4. I became very very tired of the whole "Nora could have been the rich Lady Peterborough, and does she or does she not regret refusing Mr Glascock?"musing, which is repeated over and over. I found it odd that Nora should have been taken in so affectionately by Caroline and Charles, given the history and don't really understand why Emily didn't want her to stay with her in Siena at the end. How was it OK for Emily to stay there alone?5. There were too many romances and too many examples of heroines resolving to refuse proposals because "it would be better for the man" that they do so.Ultimately disappointing and I think Colonel Osborne should indeed have got his comeuppance.

Also by Anthony Trollope   |  View all