At a private asylum in the west of England there lives, and has lived for some years past, an unfortunate lady, as to whom there has long since ceased to be any hope that she should ever live elsewhere. Indeed, there is no one left belonging to her by whom the indulgence of such a hope on her behalf could be cherished. Friends she has none; and her own condition is such, that she recks nothing of confinement and does not even sigh for release. And yet her mind is ever at work, -as is doubtless always the case with the insane. She has present to her, apparently in every waking moment of her existence, an object of intense interest, and at that she works with a constancy which never wearies herself, however fatiguing it may be to those who are near her. She is ever justifying some past action of her life. "An eye for an eye," she says, "and a tooth for a tooth. Is it not the law?" And these words she will repeat daily, almost from morn till night. It has been said that this poor lady has no friends. Friends who would be anxious for her recovery, who would care to see her even in her wretched condition, who might try to soothe her harassed heart with words of love, she has none. Such is her condition now, and her temperament, that it may be doubted whether any words of love, however tender, could be efficacious with her. She is always demanding justification, and as those who are around her never thwart her she has probably all the solace which kindness could give her.
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) grew up in London. He inherited his mother's ambition to write and was famously disciplined in the development of his craft. His first novel was published in 1847 while he was working in Ireland as a surveyor for the General Post Office. He wrote series of books set in the English countryside as well as those set in the political life, works that show great psychological penetration. One of his greatest strengths was his ability to re-create in his fiction his own vision of the social structures of Victorian England. The author of forty-seven novels, he was one of the most prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era.