Gary Watt, ‘“Where the Shoe Pinches”: True Equity in Trollope’s The Warden

Anthony’s Trollope’s short novel The Warden provides a rich and sophisticated case study in a wide range of equity jurisdictions. Some characters in the novel advance the notion that justice requires people to fulfil the duties of, and receive the benefits of, their ordained place in the social scheme. This notion has traditionally carried the name of equity when it refers, for example, to the divinely sanctioned, true succession of monarchs. Other parties in The Warden advance a notion that sometimes goes by the name of equity, but which is really a concern for social equality and distributive justice; it is a notion that often calls for received order to be disputed, disrupted and reformed. In The Warden, we also find equity understood as a legal right to wealth, or rather as a Chancery right to wealth which is based upon equitable notions of substantial justice rather than legal notions of formal entitlement. The titular character of the novel, Mr Septimus Harding, the warden of Hiram’s Hospital, searches, in the midst of all these arguments, for a ‘true equity’ such ‘that he might sleep at night without pangs of conscience’. In this article, I argue that the ‘true equity’ that Mr Harding seeks (and the equity that he demonstrates in the very act of seeking) is close to what Aristotle had in mind when he set out his idea of epieikeia in the Nicomachean Ethics, because it conceives equity to be an individual ethical response to the demands of a particular factual context. ‘True equity’ is not an institutional jurisdiction; it is a quality of personal character.

Gary Watt, ‘Where the Shoe Pinches’: True Equity in Trollope’s The Warden, Pólemos, volume 10, issue 2, pages 293–309, ISSN (Online) 2036-4601, ISSN (Print) 2035-5262, DOI: 10.1515/pol-2016-0017, September 2016.

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