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The Prime Minister (Palliser #5)
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The Trollope Project - Archives > The Prime Minister Dec 2-8: Ch 57-64

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message 1: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1816 comments Mod
We have reached a significant turning point for both our story lines.

First, the suicide of Ferdinand Lopez. Unable to see any way out, with Mr Wharton refusing to continue to support him further, his job in Guatemala disappearing, and no one left from whom he can extract money, there seemed no possible way out for Lopez, other than being seen to have failed and to be living off his Father-in-law. Emily, now that she is widowed, appears to be planning a life of misery and self-denial for a mistake in judgement made in her youth. Will she be another Lily Dale?

Secondly, we have the Duke, who has started to act on his own, and to ignore the advice of his closest advisers. I rather liked his decision about the Knight of the Garter-to give it to a worthy reformer rather than a wealthy reprobate-however it certainly ruffles a lot of feathers. The Duke is clearly too sensitive for his current role, and should have been left toiling away as Chancellor of the Exchequer, rather than having to act as a sort of social organizer and cheerleader for the coalition. As the Duke of SB says on his decision to give the KG to someone who has earned it by good works

"I think you are Quixotic. A Prime Minister is of all men bound to follow the traditions of his country, or, when he leaves them, to leave them with very gradual steps."

Did anyone at the beginning of this series or even this novel think that "quixotic" would ever be a term applied to Plantagenet Palliser? Does anyone still need convinving that these are political novels?


message 2: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2112 comments Mod
Good Riddance to Lopez! I thought he would extort enough money to start off in some other country where he could fool a new group of people. He did show some fondness and concern for Emily in the end.

The railroad as a plot device was a great 19th century invention. Think of Anna Karenina. It seems Lopez didn't have the courage to shoot himself, or maybe he had sold any guns he had.


message 3: by LiLi (last edited Dec 05, 2018 02:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

LiLi | 269 comments Apparently, Trollope and Tolstoy (who was an admirer of this book) each came up with this plot device for their respective books without knowing that the other was doing the same thing.


LiLi | 269 comments Shooting yourself is also not entirely foolproof. Every once in a while you hear about someone who survived shooting themselves in the head, still alive but horribly disfigured and maybe disabled.


message 5: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1320 comments Mod
I really admired the way Trollope handled the chapter with Lopez's death. First, the shift from his point of view to that of the people around him. This is a classic example of show vs. tell. Trollope has let us into Lopez's mind before, and he could have done it here, telling us what Lopez was feeling and thinking. But instead, he shifted the point of view to the waitress and the railroad worker (and Emily, before he left home), showing us Trollope's body language at certain times, and the way he was speaking (we as readers could see clearly that he was not behaving in a manner typical for him). The part about Lopez standing close to the edge when that first express train passed was particularly powerful. We can imagine what he was thinking at that time, how afraid he must have been (since he didn't jump yet), and it's more effective than Trollope simply telling us his thoughts. Just something I really appreciated as a writer and editor.

I also admired the duke for honoring the "good guy."


LiLi | 269 comments I also thought the telling of the scene through observations by others was really powerful. It built up the sense of dread by avoiding explicit storytelling.


message 7: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments I was especially struck by the fact that both Lopez and Palliser have suffered a downward spiral emotionally, although they lead to different results. (Safe to say that while we don’t yet know Palliser’s fate, he will not commit suicide.) Both men have tried to succeed at something they are not. In Lopez’s case, it was being an English gentleman while in Palliser’s it was being Prime Minister.
While Lopez could superficially act and look the part, as the narrator tells us, he did not understand the nature of an English gentleman. Without financial success, by his own means or as a recipient of Emily’s inheritance, there is no hope of his being accepted by the English society he covets. If he had been born an Englishman within a respected and powerful family, his unprincipled and coarse behavior might well have been tolerated. Evidence of this lies both in the observation that if blackguards and dishonorable men were expelled from clubs no one would be left, as well as the example of the recently deceased Marquis de Fidgett, who received the Garter despite his sinful life. As an outsider revealed to be unethical, Lopez’s downward spiral leaves him no way out but through death.
As Duke of Omnium, Palliser is not in the same danger as Lopez. Palliser’s flaw is that he lacks the natural abilities to be an effective leader. His Coalition succeeds because his allies are dedicated to its success, not because of Palliser’s leadership as Prime MInister. In fact, his inability to curry loyalty through friendship with those he needed, his thin skin regarding negative opinions, he overall lack of self confidence continually threaten to undermine the Coalition. He is too honorable, too scrupulous to be a true political leader and so Palliser is very unhappy, as Glencora tells Bungay and Marie. He found satisfaction in devoting his energies to more solitary projects like the decimal coinage, not in overseeing others who are doing what he sees as the real work of government. His physical deterioration and his increasing isolation and irritability evidence his dissatisfaction with his position. Although ironically as his self confidence plummets further because of the Silverbridge controversy, he seems to be more intent on remaining Prime Minister, perhaps because resigning would be seen as failure. His choice of Earlybird for the Garter seems to foreshadow the end of his Ministry- Bungay describing Palliser as Quixotic which was not a trait desired in one occupying the position of Prime Minister.


Brian Reynolds | 701 comments Great comments, especially on Trollope's change of point of view during the suicide. However, the suicide seemed the inevitable resolution since Emily needed to be freed from her bondage and we couldn't repeat Lady Laura and have her run away. Also, we have someone else waiting in the wings. It felt too pat of a resolution, though Trollope handled it well

Since Frances brings it up; please, no more Lily Dales.


message 9: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Dec 06, 2018 10:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2112 comments Mod
I don't think Emily will become a Lily Dale. She was in love with Lopez so briefly, and Arthur is a more admirable character in Trollope's eyes than Johnny was. Johnny was kind of a lap dog, while Arthur is strong even without Emily. And she realized what she wanted in a man from seeing what Lopez wasn't. She is more like Laura Kennedy in regretting her choice and wishing she had picked the other lover. But she refused to leave him or let him go abroad without her - and it wasn't that she knew he had a legal right to expect it. She took on herself the obligation to stick with him as a kind of penance for her mistake.


Brian Reynolds | 701 comments Thanks Robin. Your comments make me feel better about the future. You are right, Arthur is portrayed as more heroic than 'lap dog' Johnny and Emily is as you describe. I just worried because of her many statements of self-martyrdom.


message 11: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1320 comments Mod
Yes, she has the self-martyrdom. But I think she's more like Alice Vavasor than Lily Dale. Lily stayed single because she didn't love Johnny (and, annoying as she was, she made the right choice there). Emily loves Arthur, and Alice loved John Grey, but neither believed they deserved to marry them due to their past mistakes. But I think Emily will end up accepting Arthur, like Alice accepted John.


message 12: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2112 comments Mod
Good comparison, I had forgotten about Alice, and that's a better fit. She also chose the "wrong" suitor first, or actually second and then fourth, or something like that!


message 13: by Brian (last edited Dec 07, 2018 10:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 701 comments It's easy to forget Alice since there's been Laura, Lucy and now Emily. I first read the Pallisers about 20 years ago and I remember very little of these romances. I have no memory of the Lucy story which the TV series chose to cut completely out. While I recall some of the Lopez story, I have no memory of Emily or her fate.
I think these romances are stories that come often and don't make a lasting impression, unlike the Planty/Glencora and Finn/Madame Max relationships at the saga's core. Maybe I'll check back and see what we recall during this group's re-read in 2033.


message 14: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1320 comments Mod
There is one similarity between Emily and Lily: both faced a lot of pressure to marry a certain man, and that pressure *might* have made the men less attractive in their eyes (though it's hard to be sure).

Both women grew up with these men. Emily and Arthur were pushed together by both of their families from a young age. Though Emily seemed to be content with her life, I wonder if this pressure prevented her from falling in love with Arthur initially. Maybe she just (possibly unconsciously) wanted something different from what she was used to, someone less "safe." A charming stranger, like Lopez. She also felt that Arthur was a bit too deferential to her. After marrying Lopez, she realized that "safe" and "familiar" wasn't a bad thing and that Arthur's kindness was more manly than Lopez's flashy confidence.

Lily was pressured to marry Johnny later, after her broken engagement and after Johnny became so successful. He had always loved her, but she never had feelings for him. But later, at one point, it looked as if she could love him. I believe this was when Johnny left to fetch Eleanor from Italy. I had the impression that Lily would have accepted Johnny at that point. But then when he came back, Eleanor immediately started praising Johnny to Lily and advising her to marry him, and I think that killed any romantic feelings Lily was beginning to have for Johnny, and they never returned.


message 15: by Brian (last edited Dec 07, 2018 09:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 701 comments Lori wrote: "There is one similarity between Emily and Lily: both faced a lot of pressure to marry a certain man, and that pressure *might* have made the men less attractive in their eyes (though it's hard to b..."

Good point, Lori. Besides the self-martyrdom, there is indeed the striking similarity of family pressure to attach to a longtime family friend. One wants love to arise from within not from pressure from without.


message 16: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Lori wrote: "Yes, she has the self-martyrdom. But I think she's more like Alice Vavasor than Lily Dale. Lily stayed single because she didn't love Johnny (and, annoying as she was, she made the right choice the..."
I think the comparison to Alice is a good one. Although I felt I understood Alice’s reasoning in first rejecting John Grey better- not liking his more country lifestyle and being afraid of sacrificing her identity to a man who was not looking for an equal marriage partner in any way (thank goodness he changed his mind). Emily seems to have been unable to make the leap from a younger, platonic love to a mature sexual love for Arthur, so hers was a more internal struggle. I do hope she does accept him and go on with her life.

As I reflected on Emily’s absolute self-sacrifice to Lopez in life and death, it made me wonder if Trollope were using her to comment on the Victorian ideal of the dutiful and loyal wife. Would the Victorian reader have believed that Emily had gone too far in the fulfillment of this ideal and could that be applied more widely to women in dysfunctional marriages? Is Trollope advocating for women to assert their independence rather than follow a misguided, even dangerous, ideal?


message 17: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2112 comments Mod
When John Grey was presented to us as readers, he seemed like Mr. Kennedy turned out to be - that he would dictate his wife's life and expect her to be like him. It turned out he was more flexible than that. Same thing with Planty Pal. He started out as a somewhat inflexible character without much emotion, but he gave up his career, at least temporarily, for his wife.

If only some of those women could have been in politics themselves - Laura, Glencora, Madame Max - wow!


message 18: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments And they all expressed a desire to be involved as opposed to being satisfied in the cocoon of wife at home. Today we can see that politics and government usually takes a turn for the better when women are involved.

However, it is noticeable that in this novel, Palliser and Glencora have mixed male/female attributes. He is definitely expressing his love for Glencora and in a more emotional way than Glencora does when she finally admits that she does love him. She is the one who is willing to do what it takes to stay in political power and recognizes herself as a sinner, who is thick skinned enough to take Slide’s insults. While Palliser in being more ethical, more scrupulous, demonstrates what would have been considered feminine virtues. His delicate thin skinned constitution needs to be protected and coddled by his wife and others. He does not have the self confidence to rise above the negative opinions expressed by others- definitely not the male superiority one would expect of a major politician. Trollope’s characterizations are definitely complex and realistic- how many of us can say we are not to some extent a mix of attributes traditionally thought of as representing each gender?


Brian Reynolds | 701 comments Robin wrote: "When John Grey was presented to us as readers, he seemed like Mr. Kennedy turned out to be - that he would dictate his wife's life and expect her to be like him. It turned out he was more flexible ..."

Good point. Trollope often presents some 'villains' as complex characters first before they descend into single-minded villainy (George Vavasor, Lopez, even Kennedy a bit) while he presents some heroes more negatively narrow before revealing a welcome and more complex array of emotions. (Grey, Arthur and Planty). It's hard now to think of Planty wooing newly-married Griselda.


message 20: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2112 comments Mod
I know, I think Trollope didn't plan on Palliser being such a central figure when he used him in the Griselda story. The character we know now wouldn't have lost his head, even in his youth.


message 21: by Phrodrick (new)

Phrodrick Frances wrote: "We have reached a significant turning point for both our story lines.

First, the suicide of Ferdinand Lopez. Unable to see any way out, with Mr Wharton refusing to continue to support him further,..."


Does anyone still need convinving that these are political novels?

Yes and I need even more convincing. However I am going to take this to a person to person e mail


message 22: by LiLi (new) - rated it 4 stars

LiLi | 269 comments Linda wrote: "Lori wrote: "Yes, she has the self-martyrdom. But I think she's more like Alice Vavasor than Lily Dale. Lily stayed single because she didn't love Johnny (and, annoying as she was, she made the rig..."

There's the ideal, and there's also Emily's experience within her marriage. She's been baited-and-switched, then subsequently subjugated, gaslighted, and otherwise abused by her spouse for three years. That's likely to break one's spirit and possibly cause her to act more like a selfless martyr than ever she would have thought of acting before.

Beyond the ideal, I believe there were several legal reasons why the wife had to be obedient.

I like your idea about Emily not being able to make the leap from young, platonic love to adult, mature love. She instead mistakenly went for the charmer, which seems to be common among young women.


message 23: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Linda wrote: "Lori wrote: "Yes, she has the self-martyrdom. But I think she's more like Alice Vavasor than Lily Dale. Lily stayed single because she didn't love Johnny (and, annoying as she was, sh..."
Little legal recourse for wives at the time- unless they had witnesses to a husband’s adultery. Women were not equal legal citizens by any means. In fact, legally wives and husbands were considered as one- in other words with all the power residing with the husband. In addition, there was pervasive physical and other abuse by husbands of their wives, which was mostly hidden in upper class marriages. This physical abuse is suggested by Lopez’s later treatment of Emily. Of his emotional abuse we have no doubt. In Emily’s case, she did have the unusual choice of having her father pay off Lopez to achieve their separation. Most wives would have no way out, especially if there were children, and naturally would find the way to have the easiest time of it that they could.


message 24: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1320 comments Mod
If I remember correctly, I think Trollope implied that Lady de Courcy's husband physically abused her. I think this was in Doctor Thorne.


message 25: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1816 comments Mod
I do think that Trollope is quite clear on where he stands on abusive or controlling husbands (or wives, occasionally). There was as similar episode with George Vavasor in which he struck or otherwise harmed his sister, and was quite abusive, both financially and emotionally, to Alice.

I didn't feel that Emily was acting the martyr because of having had her spirit broken (although it is always hard to judge from the outside) but rather that she can never forgive herself for having made such a poor choice, particularly in the face of her family's counsel against it, and so will never allow herself any further happiness.


Bonnie | 217 comments Linda wrote: "His delicate thin skinned constitution needs to be protected and coddled by his wife and others. He does not have the self confidence to rise above the negative opinions expressed by others- definitely not the male superiority one would expect of a major politician.
I feel sad when I compare it to how happy and hardworking he was as Chancellor of the Exchecquer.


message 27: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
Bonnie, I feel the same way. Planty is not cut out to be Prime Minister. He wants to do worthwhile work and not be just a figurehead.


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