Critical Context

In the Second Trilogy, his last completed work before his death, Cary dealt with the history and politics of England from the early 1860’s to 1926. The work is significant because of its attempt to render specific British political experiences. Although the political novels of Joseph Conrad, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell did touch on British political life, their emphasis was on general tendencies or movements that had implications for contemporary European civilization as a whole. Cary’s Second Trilogy, however, reflects the vagaries of actual British history as it documents the ideals of British Liberalism and the collapse of the Liberal Party. The action of the trilogy is set in a very immediate way against the conflict with the Boers, the social and economic reforms of successive Edwardian governments, World War I, and the sudden prosperity of the mid-1920’s. Chester Nimmo’s career shares much with the biography of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

The appearance of the Second Trilogy also confirmed Cary’s place as a modernist of the first order. His experiments with different prose styles, first-person narration, and multiple points of view contributed to making the trilogy a dynamic fictional form. In Cary’s hands, the trilogy became not merely three different points of view but also three unified and related ways of looking at the same subject, in this case the origins and progress of British Liberalism. Through competing subjectivities, Cary presented the illusion of objective truth.