The Prime Minister

by Anthony Trollope

Paper Book, 1983

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1983.

Description

When Lopez achieves his socially advantageous marriage, Palliser must decide whether to stand by his wife's support for Lopez in a by-election or leave him to face exposure as a fortune-hunting adventurer.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lit_chick
2012, Blackstone Audiobooks, Read by Simon Vance

When the Liberal government falls, the Duke of Omnium agrees, against both his wishes and his better judgment, to head up a Coalition government. But the Duke is “not by nature gregarious or communicative, and is therefore hardly fitted to be the head of a ministry." (27) What’s more, he is much too thin-skinned, and perceives all opposition to his rule to be a personal affront. The Duchess, on the other hand, is thrilled with both her husband’s and her own new position. Money being no object for the Pallisers, she is determined to use all of her social graces to rally supporters for her husband and his government. Thus she sets down a path of unending and often indiscriminate hospitality at both Matching Priory and Gatherum Castle, declaring that, “The new Prime Minister and the new Prime Minister's wife should entertain after a fashion that had never yet been known even among the nobility of England.” (5) But her actions distress the unwavering Duke, who finds there to be a “vulgarity” about the over-the-top hospitableness. Nonetheless, the charming Lady Glen is not to be dissuaded. Indeed, her political ambitions rival those of Lady Macbeth!

“He's Prime Minister, which is a great thing, and I begin to find myself filled to the full with political ambition. I feel myself to be a Lady Macbeth, prepared for the murder of any Duncan or any Daubeny who may stand in my lord's way. In the meantime, like Lady Macbeth herself, we must attend to the banqueting. Her lord appeared and misbehaved himself; my lord won't show himself at all, – which I think is worse." (11)

Running parallel to this main plot, is the story of Emily Wharton, the daughter of a wealthy barrister, and her disastrous marriage to Ferdinand Lopez. Her attraction to Lopez, much below her social station, is scandalous: “a man without a father, a foreigner, a black Portuguese nameless Jew.” (16) What’s worse is that in order to take up with Lopez, Emily has thrown over Arthur Fletcher, a well-bred young man she has known and loved since her childhood. Indeed, both the Fletcher and Wharton families have long expected their engagement. Alas, her father, fearing to lose her altogether, eventually succumbs to her marriage. But is immediately apparent that Lopez has an eye only for the purse of his father-in-law, his wife’s happiness of no concern to him whatever. A blackguard, a liar, a reckless speculator, a failed would-be political figure – eventually, Lopez will destroy himself. Emily’s shame is consummate, and understandably so. But
her wallowing becomes maudlin and her grief selfish (much to my annoyance); and at last she will be accused by he who still loves her that the time has come to sacrifice “ the luxury of your own woe.” (79)

I’ve read that critics consider The Prime Minister to be the weakest of Trollope’s Palliser novels, but I do not share the sentiment. I enjoyed this one just as much as the others and have found myself so taken with the series that I’ve read al of the novels consecutively. Now, with only the final one to go, I begin to miss the characters and their intendant stories of love, power, corruption, and diamonds already! As to Simon Vance, I cannot imagine that a narrator his equal exists.
… (more)
LibraryThing member TomVeal
Plantagenet Palliser, now come into his inheritance as Duke of Omnium, at last makes it to the top of the greasy pole. The government that he heads is an implausible Liberal-Conservative coalition, opposed only by "Mr. Daubeny", a Disraeli caricature, and his handful of (to the author's mind) insufferable Tories. With its massive majority, however, the Omnium ministry can get nothing done - primarily because Trollope, for all of his sentimental liberalism, can't think of anything that might need doing. We are treated to Chancellor of the Exchequer Finespun's efforts to reduce the duties on French wines, the Duke's hapless flirtation with decimal coinage and a subplot in which his Duchess naively promotes the political career of a reckless adventurer (another Disraeli look-alike). Eventually, the coalition breaks up over a preposterous dispute about an award of the Order of the Garter. The Duke is relieved to be out of office, and most readers will concur with him.

Nonetheless, if one closes one's eyes to the less than credible high politics, this novel has Trollope's typical virtues. No other author has so excelled at making the ordinary run of humanity vivid and fascinating. In real life, Planty Pall would have been a dull stick, Duchess Glencora a shallow, sexually frustrated meddler and Fernando Lopez a transparent fraud. On these pages, they command our interest.

The Prime Minister is the weakest of the Palliser series, which means that it is merely in the upper two percent of English literature.
… (more)
LibraryThing member lyzard
This fifth book in Anthony Trollope's "Palliser" series finds the Duke of Omnium the reluctant head of a coalition government. While in one respect he is the perfect man for the job, in that he is the one politician that both sides trust, in another he is the worst possible choice for prime minister, since the uneasy alliance requires someone who can work with all sorts of men (including those he dislikes and distrusts), and meld the coalition's disparate elements into a working government---and this is a task beyond the powers of the thin-skinned, high-principled Plantagenet. Lady Glencora, though glorying in the Duke's appointment, sees only too clearly where he is likely to fail, and sets out to do what he cannot via a series of lavish entertainments intended to win the gratitude and loyalty of both parties, but which ultimately do as much harm as good. Despite her husband's declaration that he will not interfere in the upcoming Silverbridge election, Glencora continues to meddle, including encouraging social-climbing aspirant Ferdinand Lopez to consider himself "the Duke's candidate"; but when Plantagenet puts his foot down, and publicly, it sets in motion a series of events that will damage both the government and Lopez's already shaky marriage to the lovely young Emily Wharton, who has become his wife in the teeth of her family's rigid opposition and is beginning to regret it... Following on from Trollope's great but depressing "state of the nation" novel, The Way We Live Now, The Prime Minister is one of the author's darkest works, offering little relief to the reader in either of its main plots. Trollope's understanding of both men and politics shows itself again in his depiction of the uncomfortable coalition, which finally collapses from the inside due to its members' self-interest and Plantagenet's inability to be the flexible leader that the government needs. However, his parallel depiction of the Lopez marriage is severely flawed. Lopez represents the class of men that Trollope most distrusted, those making a precarious living through speculation and other financial manipulations, which he viewed as fundamentally dishonest; but while the gradual revelation of Lopez as an amoral scoundrel is painful and effective, particularly as it is seen through the eyes of his swiftly disillusioned bride, the characterisation is lacking the psychological depth and motivation that we expect from Trollope, with no more reason given within the narrative for Lopez's unprincipled and wholly selfish behaviour than that his father wasn't English: a suggestion unworthy of the author, as is the antisemitism that taints this section of the novel. That said, the climax to this secondary plot is extraordinary, one of Trollope's most powerful passages of writing. Nevertheless, the novel is on firmer ground when exploring the Plantagenet-Glencora marriage, each of them wanting to do their best for the other, yet with the two of them constantly at odds and causing one another pain through sheer incompatibility of temperament and personality.

    "What is it that you fear? What can the man do to you? What matter is it to you if such a one as that pours out his malice on you? Let it run off like the rain from the housetops. You are too big even to be stung by such a reptile as that." The Duke looked into her face, admiring the energy with which she spoke to him. "As for answering him," she continued to say, "that may or may not be proper. If it should be done, there are people to do it. But I am speaking of your own inner self. You have a shield against your equals, and a sword to attack them with if necessary. Have you no armour of proof against such a creature as that? Have you nothing inside you to make you feel that he is too contemptible to be regarded?"
    "Nothing," he said.
    "Oh, Plantagenet!"
    "Cora, there are different natures which have each their own excellencies and their own defects. I will not admit that I am a coward, believing as I do that I could dare to face necessary danger. But I cannot endure to have my character impugned,---even by Mr. Slide and Mr. Lopez."
    "What matter,---if you are in the right? Why blench if your conscience accuses you of no fault? I would not blench even if it did. What;---is a man to be put in the front of everything, and then to be judged as though he could give all his time to the picking of his steps?"
    "Just so! And he must pick them more warily than another."
    "I do not believe it. You see all this with jaundiced eyes. I read somewhere the other day that the great ships have always little worms attached to them, but that the great ships swim on and know nothing of the worms."
    "The worms conquer at last."
… (more)
LibraryThing member pgchuis
Plantaganet Palliser is persuaded to lead a coalition government and a woman called Emily Wharton marries a scoundrel called Ferdinand Lopez. The politics bits are not terribly interesting - mainly Palliser moaning about how mean people can be and worrying too much about what is written in the press about him. (By the way, I thought Quintus Slide had been exiled to America?) The Lopez sections are much more exciting (although coloured by Victorian attitudes to "foreigners" who might or might not be "Jews"). Lopez is definitely not a "gentleman", but it is not clear to me whether Trollope can imagine that a non-Englishman can possibly be a gentlemen. Overall a fairly sad book in a gently relentless way. I spent the last volume wishing Palliser would just shut up and resign and Emily would just get over herself and marry Arthur. Oddly, nothing terrible happens to Lord Fawn in this volume...… (more)
LibraryThing member JBD1
The fifth Palliser novel; not quite as good as the previous volume, but still a perfectly excellent read. The Duke of Omnium finds himself prime minister in a coalition government, and much of the plot revolves around his trials and tribulations in office (and at home). The other main plot concerns the rascally Ferdinand Lopez and his endeavors, which make at times for pretty uncomfortable telling.

Lots of recurring appearances from our old friends, which have gotten to be my favorite parts of this series.
… (more)
LibraryThing member auntieknickers
Plantagenet Palliser at last becomes Prime Minister but all is not as golden for him as one would wish, partly because of Glencora's meddling. Gives an excellent picture of Victorian England in its highest strata.
LibraryThing member leslie.98
I enjoyed the first 500 pages or so, up until Mr. Lopez dies. He was a blackguardly scoundrel but he was interesting!. Unfortunately, I found Emily and her megrims annoying and dull and I have to say that Plantagenet Palliser was much more fun in the Barsetshire series & became downright irritating in this novel. He and Emily were flawed in much the same way - and sadly a way I did not enjoy reading about. Ah well, only one more book in the series so I will persevere.… (more)
LibraryThing member sonatad894
"The Prime Minister" was my second foray into Trollope's oeuvre, the first being "Can You Forgive Her?". Since then, I have read the final Palliser novel, "The Duke's Children"; and I must remark that Trollope's style is utterly unlike anything I have ever yet encountered -- and not necessarily in a complimentary sense. He wrote with something of the discursiveness of Thackeray and undeniably equals the latter's length, but without drawing any characters as vivid or lifelike as Becky Sharp from "Vanity Fair". Realism is certainly a specialty of Trollope's, and he gives excellent insight into the British political system and its 19th-century modus operandi. However, I expect an imaginative and well-maintained storyline in a novel above all else, and while Trollope's Palliser novels are all the former, I find that they lack a pellucid narrative and thoughtful, revealing dialogue.

All in all, a good read on a rainy day when you have a craving for a work of British literature that you haven't read before, but not memorable for characterisation or narrative style.
… (more)
LibraryThing member idiotgirl
Very much enjoyed the book. A very good Palliser novel. Definitely at least a 3.5. This one is the story of the Duke as prime ministers. But also the story of Ferdinand Lopez. Portuguese, without family, good education, dark, probably Jewish. What becomes of him. Up, up. And married to a fine but stubborn young lady. Doesn't end up being a nuanced story because Lopez is a cad. In important ways, the interest of the story focuses on two women, the young woman who marries Lobez against the wishes of her family. And the duke's fesity wife Glencora. In some ways the most interesting story turns on the stubborness of the young wife. Will she recover from the husband. More importantly will she recover from her stubborness. Because of course things bad things happen to the husband.

Conventional and "happy" in the end. Not sure who has won. But I do like Glencora. And her friend--now Madame Finn. The best of soap opera can be found in the Palliser cycle.
… (more)
LibraryThing member antiquary
Again, I bought this to have a more portable copy of the book. I have not read the copies of this series I inherited because they are too bulky to carry conveniently. I recall my father saying that the prime minister lost power because he gave an honor (a KG?) to a man he felt deserved it (for his agricultural improvements?) instead of to someone with more political influence.… (more)
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Plantagenet Palliser has reached the height of his career. When neither the conservatives nor the liberals can garner enough support to form a government, they turn to the Duke of Omnium (as Plantagenet is now) to serve as prime minister at the head of a coalition government. The Duchess (the former Lady Glencora) is ecstatic and immediately sets out to form a shadow government among the leading women of the country. But the poor Duke couldn't be more miserable when he discovers that his position, and the stability of the government, hinges on his complete inaction. (Except for ceremonial stuff.)

A secondary plot concerns Emily Wharton, the only daughter of a wealthy London gentleman who is determined to marry Ferdinand Lopez over her father's objections. Mr. Wharton objects to Lopez because he's not an English gentleman. (In other words, he's foreign and has Jewish ancestry.) Emily quite rightly objects to her father's prejudice. Unfortunately, while they're focused on Lopez's ancestry, they both fail to note that his primary occupation of futures trading will not provide the necessary financial stability to support a wife and family. The results are both tragic and predictable.

In a way, this is a story of frustrated ambition and of two unhappy marriages. The Pallisers' temperaments make them ill suited for each other, with seemingly incompatible goals. Plantagenet wants to be useful, while Glencora wants to be important. Plantagenet is unhappy when he's in an important position without useful work. Insufficient income seems to be at the root of the Lopez's marital problems, but as the Pallisers' situation proves, it takes more than money to make a happy marriage.
… (more)
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
In this, the fifth of Trollope’s Palliser novels, Plantagenet Palliser has recently been appointed Prime Minister and his wife, Glencora, is busy entertaining Members of Parliament and other dignitaries. At the same time, young Emily Wharton has just rejected her long-time suitor, Arthur Fletcher, in favor of rakish Fernando Lopez. These events set up the two principal storylines in The Prime Minister. Plantagenet is a rare breed of ethical politician, putting the country and others above himself. Glencora is well-intentioned but uses the power of her position to advance Lopez, which turns out to be a mistake. As does Emily’s marriage: Lopez takes advantage of Emily and her wealthy father, with disastrous consequences.

I really enjoyed reading this installment and was so caught up in it that the nearly 700 pages seemed to fly by. I have just one Palliser novel left to read and will miss them when I’m done.
… (more)
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
I just love the Palliser series! This installment returns to a focus on the Duke who has become Prime Minister. The reader is also introduced to the tragically nefarious, narcissistic Ferdinand Lopez and the target of his plots, the Wharton family. Plotting, broken hearts, outwitting the fiend, and renewal of lost love. Ah yes! Of course, Trollope wouldn't be Trollope without a dash of social commentary, and in this story it is the maneuvering of the Members of Parliament, their concern for their image, and the way gossip impacts their decisions. Additionally we find Lady Palliser becoming caught up in the love of power and trying desperately to maintain her status through her husband's status. In fact, that is the primary theme here. Miss Wharton and Lady Palliser struggle with the definition of self through spouse throughout the drama. You will have to read it yourself to find out the results!… (more)
LibraryThing member mbmackay
This is the fifth book in the Palliser series which has power and politics as an underlying theme. Interestingly, this is the first book in the series to provide any sort of political commentary. In the earlier volumes the politics is given very superficial treatment, but here, through Plantagenet Palliser, now Duke of Omnium, Trollope sets out his understanding of the differences between a Tory and a Liberal view of politics (effectively, Tory stands for no change, Liberal for increased equality). The lead character in the book is the villain, Lopez. Trollope does not do villains well. They tend to be one-dimensionally bad, and lack the subtlety of his other characters. There is also something dispiriting in a long book about a bad man. So, not Trollope's best effort, but even his lesser books are a joy to read. (Read Feb 2011).… (more)

Language

Page: 0.2562 seconds