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The Prime Minister (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 1, 1996
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Novel by Anthony Trollope, published serially during 1875 and 1876 and in book form in 1876. Considered by modern critics to represent the apex of the PALLISER NOVELS, it is the fifth in the series and sustains two plot lines. One records the clash between the Duke of Omnium, now prime minister of a coalition government, and his high-spirited wife, Lady Glencora, whose drive to become the most brilliant hostess in society causes embarrassment for her husband and eventually contributes to his downfall. The second plot relates the machinations of Ferdinand Lopez, an ambitious social climber who wins the support of Lady Glencora--but not her husband--for an election campaign. The novel brilliantly dissects the politics of both marriage and government. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
Can a morally scrupulous English gentleman make an effective Prime Minister? This is one of the enduringly fascinating problems posed in The Prime Minister (1876). And as Plantaganet Palliser, Duke of Omnium, overenthusiastically supported by Lady Glencora, presides over the Coalition government, Trollope reaches into the highest echelons of the English establishment, depicting political realities rather than ideology, portraying social, sexual and domestic politics as well as the public variety. The world of the novel is perplexed and dominated by the handsome impostor Ferdinand Lopez. Even the Duke and Duchess are not immune to his malign influence, as Lopez pursues Emily Wharton for her charm and her fortune, and plots to win membership of that most exclusive of English clubs, the Houses of Parliament.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the other main plot, Emily Wharton ignores the advice of her father and almost all her friends when she falls in love with Ferdinand Lopez, about whom very little is known except that he seems to be a wealthy gentleman. Finally she persuades her father to give his permission for her marriage. Very quickly she discovers that she has made a horrendous mistake, and her life becomes a living hell. Only one of her old friends remains true--Arthur Fletcher, who vows that he will always love no one but her.
Anyone who is interested in Victorian history and British politics will find the novel a pure delight. Others may find it slow going and mystifying in spots, although no such knowledge or interest is needed for the Emily-Lopez plot. Lopez is one of the most despicable villains in all of Trollope's fiction, ranking with George Vavasor of "Can You Forgive Her?" Emily, on the other hand, sometimes becomes tiresome in her queer, fastidious obstinacy.
The character of Plantagenet Palliser is finely drawn. He is a man who is scrupulously honest, too much so for partisan politics. He is a natural leader and yet a thin-skinned, conscientious man who takes any criticism to heart. He loves his vivacious wife, who teases him mercilessly when she wishes to upset him. The match seems very odd, and their marriage began under inauspicious circumstances, and yet she, in her way, admires and adores her husband.
"The Prime Minister" is an outstanding work by one of literature's greatest novelists, mainly because of his brilliant handling of character. No one does it better.
But this, the chief interest of the novel for me, is doomed to feel weirdly flat and over-detailed to a reader who comes to THE PRIME MINISTER cold. Phineas and Marie, Lord Cantrip, Mr Monk, Gatherum and the Duke of St Bungay will seem only ciphers to readers knowing nothing of their histories, and they may even think the Pallisers themselves unworthy of the attention devoted to them. For them the chief interest of the novel will be the Lopez-Wharton plot, which has plenty of dazzle and drive to sustain it -- but when Lopez is dispatched they may find themselves frustrated and at sea, with a book in their hands that is no longer the book they thought they were reading. Emily Lopez thereafter is not good company, perhaps not a false creation so much as one we see about 30 pages too much of.
The technical presentation of the novel is very fine. Trollope loves characters and situations, those are where his genius is most on display, and sometimes seems to regard plot as a necessary evil. Too often, elsewhere, he commits himself to subplots that canot really engage his interest, seemingly for no better reason than that is how novel-writing was supposed to be done. But here there are only two plots, with the marvelous Ferdinand Lopez serving as the hinge between them. (Trollope may have taught himself to do this in THE WAY WE LIVE NOW, where Felix Carbury serves a similar purpose. But in that book Trollope still felt obliged to rely on the uninspired subplot of Paul and Henrietta's romance.) The simplicity of the structure allows Trollope to do what he does best -- planning, rather than plotting, vivid scenes of intensity and character collision. The incidents of THE PRIME MINISTER are planned with a wonderful intelligence.
(My edition of the Palliser novels is not the Penguin but the Oxford World's Classics one, and I don't have a word to say in its favor. The notes are annoyingly overlong and too numerous; and the editors' introductions, with the exception of that to PHINEAS REDUX, are dumbfoundingly irrelevant, seeming not to have even the simplest grasp of the virtues and appeal of the work being introduced. They're like reading a disquisition by Plantagenet Palliser himself on the merits of decimal coinage.)
The most intriguing part of the book, though, are the sections that deal with Ferdinand Lopez, a Jewish "outsider" to upper class London society, toward whom Trollope seems to have had a fascinatingly unsettled and ambivalent attitude. Is he a tragic figure whose relatively small-scale vices only bring about his downfall because he is trying to gain entry into a self-enclosed world of unearned privilege, or is he really the unscrupulous "adventurer" that the other characters all regard him as being? The fact that the author himself never really seems to have made up his own mind on this topic is perhaps a weakness in some sense, but it shows that Trollope was able to retain at least some of his intellectual honesty as the curious, inquisitive liberalism of his youth began to give way to the slightly paranoid toryism of his old age.
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however... i realize that there are those who read the classics for strictly scholarly purposes, but there are also those...Read more