The estate of Bragton Hall, for many years the property of the Morton family, came into the hands of John Morton, secretary of the British Legation in Washington. He returned to England accompanied by his fiance Arabella Trefoil, her mother Lady Augustus and an American Senator, Elias Gotobed. The Senator was intent on a study of English life and John Morton undertook to introduce him to it. After a brief visit to Bragton Hall the party moved on to Rufford Hall, home of a wealthy, sporting bachelor, Lord Rufford.
Arabella, an unabashed fortune hunter with numerous matrimonial adventures behind her, judged that a more profitable marriage might he arranged for herself with Lord Rufford than with John Morton, and schemed to make him propose to her. He indulged in a certain amount of philandering, gave her a riding horse, and she announced that he had asked for her hand. This he vigorously denied, but Lady Augustus charged him with a breach-of-promise, and demanded 5,000 to soothe her daughter's broken heart. Arabella indignantly rejected this bargain, thinking that by skillful play the prize might yet be won. When John Morton, who still considered himself engaged to her, became seriously ill, she confessed her treachery to him and gave up her pursuit of Lord Rufford. John died, leaving her 5,000, and with this legacy she married the recently appointed Ambassador to Patagonia Mounser Green. To his cousin Reginald Morton, John left the estate.
Mary Masters, daughter of the Morton family attorney, had lived as a young girl at Bragton Hall with the cousins' aunt Lady Ushant, as her companion, and had loved Reginald since they were children there together. Lawrence Twentyman, a neighboring gentleman-farmer, was eager to make her his wife, with the backing of Mary's stepmother. When she refused him, her own home became unbearable to her and she again took refuge with Lady Ushant. Reginald followed and asked her to marry him.
The American Senator had formed his opinions of English rural life through his acquaintance with John Morton's friends, and concluded his visit to England with a lecture in St. James Hall in which he frankly but good-humoredly criticized English manners and customs. The speech was not well received by some of the audience, and the Senator was escorted out a back entrance for his own safety. On arriving in the United States he straightway lectured to his countrymen in praise of English institutions.
"The American Senator will be read for the sake of its opening chapters, which set before the reader in a few pages the whole geographical and social pattern of an English county; for the sake of its hunting episodes, which are among the best not only in Trollope, but in the whole of English fiction; and for the sake of Arabella Trefoil, a masterly study of a girl without a heart, who may be compared with Moliere's Celimene and even with Beatrix in Esmond."- Sadleir