When Fanny Trollope set sail for America in 1827, she took with her three of her children and a young French artist. She left behind her son Anthony, growing debts and a husband going slowly mad from mercury poisoning. But her hopes of joining a Utopian community of emancipated slaves were soon dashed, and she and her children were forced to live by their wits in Cincinnati, then a booming frontier town on the Ohio River. What followed was a tragicomedy of illness, scandal and failed business ventures that left them destitute.
Nevertheless, on her return to England, Fanny turned her misfortunes into a remarkable book. Domestic Manners was a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. A masterpiece of nineteenth-century travel-writing, it is also a timeless satire on a society torn between high ideals and human frailties. It remains as perceptive and funny today as it was when it was first published.