The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

The Prime Minister (Palliser #5)
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The Trollope Project - Archives > The Prime Minister Dec 16-22: Ch 73-80

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

Frances (francesab) | 1806 comments Mod
We have come to the end of the penultimate novel in the Palliser series.

The coalition has dissolved, and the Duke of Omnium takes it personally. He feels that he cannot return to an active role in politics, despite the urging of his colleagues.

Emily is finally convinced to stop torturing herself and make her family and friends (and herself) happy by marrying Arthur.

I have many sections underlined in this novel, and will share a couple of my favourites:

(Arthur says to Emily) There is not one among us all, Fletchers and Whartons, whose comfort does not more or less depend on your sacrificing the luxury of your own woe."..."Luxury!"..."Yes; luxury. No man ever had a right to say more positively to a woman that it was her duty to marry him, than I have to you. And I do say it. I say it on behalf of all of us, that it is your duty. I won't talk of my own love now, because you know it. You cannot doubt it. I won't even talk of yours, because I am sure of it. But I say that it is your duty to give up drowning us all in tears, burying us in desolation. You are one of us, and should do as all of us wish you. If, indeed, you could not love me it would be different.

What surprises me most is that no one points out to Emily that she made a mistake in not listening to her family about marrying Lopez, why doesn't she listen to them now about marrying Arthur?

On the political side, we see PP and Mr Monk discussing the failure of the coalition.

Mr Monk did not scruple to say that in his opinion the present legitimate division of parties was preferable to the Coalition which had existed for three years. "In such an arrangement," said Mr Monk, "there must always be a certain amount of distrust, and such a feeling is fatal to any great work."...(PP) "You think, then, that we made a great mistake?"

"I will not say that," said Mr. Monk. "There was a difficulty at the time, and that difficulty was overcome. The Government was carried on, and was on the whole respected. History will give you credit for patriotism, patience, and courage. No man could have done it better than you did;-probably no other man of the day so well."

"But it was not a great part to play?" The Duke in his nervousness, as he said this, could not avoid the use of that questioning tone which required an answer.

"Great enough to satisfy the heart of a man who has fortified himself against the evil side of ambition. After all, what is it that the Prime Minister of such a country as this should chiefly regard? Is it not the prosperity of the country?

There is more that I underlined, but this gives the flavour.

I wonder if the Duke's wish to do well is perhaps because that will be the one thing he achieves on his own. His wealth, his Dukedom, his land, his wife (although in the end, he won her back by his own actions and behaviour), were all given to him. Politics is his chance to accomplish something on his own.

What are your thoughts on the personal tales and the political history of the novel? What are your thoughts overall, and how do you rank this one among the rest in the series so far?

message 2: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Dec 17, 2018 07:25PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2076 comments Mod
I thought this ending was predictable all round. I am tired of the Trollope heroines who agree by not disagreeing, or by whispering, or by shyly extending a hand, after they have spent chapters discoursing to everyone why they can't possibly do the one thing that will make everyone happy. There was a certain "luxury" in Emily's wallowing.

Planty did some of his own wallowing in how he should have been more effective, he has no further contribution, etc. The very end implies that he will reconsider eventually.

I recently found out that my library has the whole Palliser series from the BBC. I took out the first one but I had too many complaints to get far. It's fine that the adaptation combined elements from a couple of books. But Griselda was much too animated and Glencora was portrayed as practically a child playing tag, while Plantagent was middle-aged. Was he that much older than Glencora? I don't remember Glencora being silly even at first. She was very serious about whether she should run away with Burgo.

message 3: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1806 comments Mod
At least she agreed to marry him in the end! I do find the wallowing in self-imposed misery annoying. Plant. P. would make a great psychological case study-the sensitivity and yet the unbending snobbery, the fear of not measuring up.

message 4: by Phrodrick (last edited Dec 17, 2018 08:08PM) (new)

Phrodrick When do we get to talk about the integrity of the PM?
He is scrupulous about not using his power for himself or his wife.
We do not see him cutting deals or compromising.
Up to and including at the cost of his government he does not trade on what he considers his honor.

The joke of he book is that it is titled for the PM and that sub-plot hardly carries 20% of the content of the book. PP gets the job because he is trusted by both sides. A trust no other political candidate has.

BTW what is Finn up to?

Bonnie | 217 comments

I have probably forfeited the opportunity to run for office by giving so many Anthony Trollope books 3- and 4-star ratings. I could delete my Goodreads account but they would come out via The Way Back Internet Machine.

It is terribly disconcerting to be reading along, feeling good about yourself, 'I'm reading British classics from the 1800s! I'm learning about history and being very cultured and Intellectual!' And then hit a "--a greasy Jew!" phrase. Very deflating.

I do not agree or endorse such thinking. I oppose it.

Mr. Wharton did at least have the decency to admit this as a "prejudice."

The Introduction in the Penguin edition says there can be valid debate about whether Trollope was personally anti-Semitic, or was relaying, as the narrator, how British People of that class, at that time, thought. Usually those bits are presented as character's inner thoughts, and then when not it is usually a commentary from the narrator, not an established Fact. (Like in Jane Austen "Pride and Prejudice" the narrator begins:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Jane Austen herself was poking at that, not endorsing it: "We have no difficulty deciding that Jane Austen is being ironic, and that she would have us know that she is not implicated in the term ‘universally’." --David Skilton

So I hope Trollope meant the anti-Semitic asides as that, commentary /observation, not personal. But even if not -- I think it is best to leave them in and point out that people used to think that way, and look where it led and we don't want to start thinking like that again --rather than reprint the books with those portions excised.

Same with contemporary American controversies regarding reading the U.S. Constitution aloud in Congress (skip the parts to do with slaves?), or reprinting "Huckleberry Finn" (excise anti-'Negro' lines?).

So, to Posterity: primates are inclined to group things. Fight the impulse. Remember to not pre-judge individuals, by their group's stereotypical characteristics (and negative stereotypes even worse), which are probably not even accurate, and learn about statistics.

(Not that I am even interested in running for office!)

message 6: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2076 comments Mod
We had the same concern about anti-Semitism with Dickens. He seems to have been surprised that the character Fagin was received as anti-Semitic, and made an effort to put a "good Jew" into a later book (was it Our Mutual Friend?) I'm sure many racist things were said about Disraeli when he was Prime Minister.

In our upcoming read of The Scarlet Pimpernel, my enjoyment of the book overall was marred by a stereotyped Jew late in the book.

LiLi | 269 comments Yeah, I also feel embarrassed that I gave this book four stars. I don't wish to condone its racism. I just thought the story was very good and found Trollope's portrayal of marriages very interesting and honest.

LiLi | 269 comments Side note: does anyone know when we'll be starting _The Duke's Children_?

message 9: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments I’ve commented before on Trollope’s often disturbing characterization of Jews in the Palliser series. I continue to look for scholarly discussions on this topic and continue to find a range of opinions. Victorian anti-semitism was prevalent, especially in the upper classes whom Trollope focuses upon. However, it was fading, to the degree that Disraeli, descended from Portuguese Jews who had converted to Christianity two generations before, could become a Conservative Prime Minister. In addition, other writers such as Dickens went out of their way to create sympathetic Jewish characters- Our Mutual Friend- after their previous evil depictions of Jewish characters were criticized- Fagin. The unanswerable question is whether Trollope was commenting on this upper class prejudice, or did he subscribe to it? Some point to his deep feelings of being an outsider, of being prejudiced against as evidence for sympathy for Jewish people in England, who were perhaps the starkest example of outsider prejudice. Others point to the most positive creation of Madame Max, whose origins are mysterious but was married to a Jewish banker and may have been Jewish herself as her physical description highlights. Another view is that Trollope was just mildly or unconsciously anti-Semitic, as an American Southerner might retain some unconscious racist feelings because of the society in which they have grown up.
I’ve decided to subscribe to the view that we can't really know, unless we can find Trollope’s own nonfiction reflections on this topic. I take his characterization of Madame Max as evidence that he could not be entirely anti-Semitic. That at least part of his portrayal of Jews was a social commentary on the society in which he lived. For Lopez specifically, how this prejudice against him fueled his descent into immorality.
Briefly (!) one of the themes I found most fundamental in the Prime Minister was that of duty. This actually brings together the story of Palliser and Emily. Both have a deep sense of duty, he to serve his country and she both as a wife and daughter. They are both put in positions where to fulfill their duty, they have to overcome qualities in themselves which are at odds with such a fulfillment. In the end, Palliser cannot overcome his sense of ethics, of scrupulousness to become a “true” Prime Minister and Emily recognizes she would have to descend to Lopez’s immoral behavior in order to be a loyal wife and cannot do it.

message 10: by Phrodrick (last edited Dec 20, 2018 08:20PM) (new)

Phrodrick With apologies towards what is clearly a deeply thought out and clearly made discussion; I propose a few points in clarification. Not intended to be in refutation

According to Wiki and other sources Ben Disraeli was not Jewish. His father left the faith over a dispute and by age 12 BD was Anglican.

There is more to this discussion as it touches on the attitude towards converts, his 'Jewish' looks and so forth. Disraeli was certainly able to wield his Jewish roots when it was to his advantage.
BD entered the House in 1837,

In 1847 Baron Lionel de Rothschild, yes that Rothchild family became the first practicing Jew to hold a seat in the English House of Commons.

I quote this exactly as in Wiki as I think it sheds some light on how Jews were thought about not just in Victorian Society but by HRH Herself

Prime Minister Gladstone proposed to Queen Victoria that he be made a British peer. She demurred, saying that titling a Jew would raise antagonism and furthermore it would be unseemly to reward a man whose vast wealth was based on what she called "a species of gambling" rather than legitimate trade. However, in 1885 the Queen did raise Rothschild's son Nathan to the peerage; he became the first Jewish member of the House of Lords.

I cannot help but think Lopez was also engaged in this "species of gamboling".

message 11: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Thanks for the additional information. The source I used for Disraeli did say he was Anglican, not Jewish, his family having previously converted. The author (have to find the source again) also proposed that maybe Lopez was based to a certain degree on Disraeli- Portuguese roots, formerly Jewish (Lopez didn’t practice Judaism as far as we know). Plus as Disraeli was a Conservative, Trollope disliked him which might be another reason he chose such characteristics for the bad guy.
I also like the possible links to Rothschild as well.

message 12: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments For any who are interested here's a link to an article which won the 1999 Trollope Prize sponsored by Harvard's Expository Writing Program which includes the information I referenced on Disraeli and Lopez. It's title is Anti-Semitism in Anthony Trollope's Palliser Novels. You have to scroll down a bit to get to it. I can't find any info that indicates the prize is still being awarded. Maybe the sponsoring professor went elsewhere.

message 13: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1806 comments Mod
Elizabeth wrote: "Side note: does anyone know when we'll be starting _The Duke's Children_?"

I'm planning to start The Duke's Children in mid-January. On that note, there is a recent edition described thus on amazon: Trollope wrote The Duke’s Children, his final Palliser novel, as a four-volume work but was required by his publisher to reduce it to three, necessitating the loss of nearly sixty-five thousand words. A team of researchers led by Steven Amarnick has worked with the manuscript at Yale’s Beinecke Library to restore the novel to its original form. The result is richer and more complex, with a subtly different ending, a clearly superior book to the one that has always been published. As far as I know this restored edition is only available in hardback and not necessarily available at public libraries, so I will be using the version published earlier. That being said, I assume it will be easy to read the new version and follow where the discussion is going.

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

Rosemarie | 2787 comments Mod
I am so glad that Emily stopped wallowing in such self pity and pride. Good grief!

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