London: Henry Colburn, 1850. First edition. Original publisher's quarter cloth over boards, retaining delicate paper labels to spines. Measuring 195 x 120 and collating complete: , 310; , 326; , 332. A bit of sunning to spines, with all volumes recased and hinges tight. Contemporary ownership signature of George Wise in pencil to each front endpaper; evidence of bookplate removal to pastedowns. Occasional rough opening of pages with no text affected; internally pleasing and clean. OCLC reports only 12 complete copies in U.S. institutions (with many others holding only single volumes or mixed sets).
Released late in Trollope's career, Petticoat Government was praised by contemporaries as a "novel to have recalled the most vigorous days of her genius" (The Critic, Aug. 1850) and "a novel rich in all the attractions...with a very ingeniously complicated plot" (The Standard, Aug. 1850). Following two unmarried women competing for guardianship over their orphaned niece, the novel is an examination of female domestic power and familial influence. The prosperous Jenkyns family is wealthy in all ways except in having an heir -- for all of the children are daughters. While the lovely Judith marries and has children, her plainer sisters Barbara and Elfreda remain unmarried and take over the family home after their parents' decease. For them, their superficial looks are a benefit for, as Elfreda puts it, "if I am ugly, so much the better for me; for the uglier I am, the better my chance of being let alone and permitted to remain as I am." But when Judith, her husband, and her sons die in a cholera outbreak, their lone daughter Judith is left "a ward of the Chancery, with a fortune somewhat above forty thousand pounds and a sort of testamentary letter from her poor mother to her two maiden sisters entreating them...to take personal charge of the young heiress." What ensues is domestic competition that changes Barbara and Elfreda's quiet life -- for young Judith carries with her not only wealth to control but a young mind and a future to be shaped. (Item #4956)