An Eye for an Eye (novel)
An Eye for an Eye is a novel by Anthony Trollope written between 13 September and 10 October 1870, but held back from publication until August 1878 when serialization began in the Whitehall Review. Publication in the form of a two volume novel was timed to coincide with the issue of the final serialized episodes in January 1879.
Fred Neville, a lieutenant of cavalry and heir to the earldom of Scroope, woos and then seduces the beautiful Kate O’Hara. Kate lives with her mother in genteel poverty in an isolated cottage near the cliffs of Moher in western Ireland.
News of the romantic entanglement quickly reaches Scroope Manor, and Fred is summoned back to Dorsetshire where the earl extracts a firm undertaking that Fred will not marry Kate O’Hara under any circumstances, despite any promises he has made to the girl.
Once back in Ireland, Fred is confronted at his barracks by Mrs. O’Hara, demanding to know when he intends to marry her daughter, who is carrying his baby. He is shamed into agreeing to visit Kate, but that evening word arrives that the old Earl has died, and that Fred is now the Earl of Scroope. Fred realizes that marriage to Kate O’Hara is out of the question as her background would make her quite unacceptable in society. He resolves to confront Mrs. O’Hara and her unfortunate daughter.
The climax of the novel takes place between the young earl and Mrs. O’Hara on the cliffs above the cottage. Whilst acknowledging the promises he made to Kate, Fred steadfastly refuses to make her Countess of Scroope. A frenzied Mrs. O’Hara attacks the lord, driving him backwards over the cliff edge to his death. Realizing she has killed the man her daughter loves, she instantly falls insane.
Fred Neville’s brother, Jack, inherits the earldom and pays for Mrs. O’Hara’s incarceration in an English mental asylum where she endlessly repeats the words “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Is it not the law?”
- Michael Sadleir Trollope: a Biography (1928)
- Introduction to An Eye for an Eye by Maeve Binchy. Trollope Society edition 1993.
- Trollope: A Biography by N. John Hall. Clarendon Press. Oxford 1991. ISBN 0-19-812627-1
- Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in His World by Richard Mullen. George Duckworth & Co. Ltd. London 1990. ISBN 0-7156-2293-5