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Group read: Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope

75 Books Challenge for 2015

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Sep 1, 2015, 6:26pm Top

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope (1874)

A man placed as was our Phineas always does that which most pleases him at the moment, being but poor at argument if he cannot carry the weight to that side which best satisfies his own feelings. Had not his success been very great when he before made the attempt? Was he not well aware at every moment of his life that, after having so thoroughly learned his lesson in London, he was throwing away his hours amidst his present pursuits in Dublin? Did he not owe himself to his country? And then, again, what might not London do for him? Men who had begun as he begun had lived to rule over Cabinets, and to sway the Empire...

Sep 1, 2015, 6:38pm Top

Hello, all! Welcome to the Group Read of Phineas Redux, the fourth of Anthony Trollope's political, or "Palliser", novels.

Phineas Redux was serialised from July 1873 through to January 1874, with the book then appearing in volume form. It is a true sequel to Phineas Finn, bringing back the same cast of characters and picking up the portrait of political life that formed the backbone of that novel.

As in Phineas Finn, Trollope chooses a single political issue to illustrate the functioning (and dysfunction) of English politics in the second half of the 19th century. While in the earlier novel he used the debate over the extension of the franchise and the possible introduction of a secret ballot as the framework for his story, in this case the issue is the potential disestablishment of the Church of England.

However, various other of Trollope's concerns are also present in this work which, like The Eustace Diamonds before it, indicates that he was developing a darker view of society and was worried over the direction it was taking.

While we will be tackling Phineas Redux as a group rather than a tutored read, and while the political content is "more of the same" rather than new material, everyone should please feel free to ask any questions that they need to, or for reminders about past plot details if they've become a bit misty.

As always, please indicate the chapter on which you are commenting by beginning your post in bold. Also as always, DO NOT read any introductory material on this book until after you've finished it; more than most, this one tends to attract spoilers!

Sep 1, 2015, 6:39pm Top

So who's in? :)

Sep 1, 2015, 6:55pm Top

I'm in! I'm already up to chapter 8. :)

Sep 1, 2015, 7:03pm Top

I'm in! I'll be starting in the next couple of days.

Edited: Sep 1, 2015, 7:19pm Top

>4 cbl_tn:, >5 japaul22:

Welcome, Carrie and Jennifer - great to see you here! :)

Edited: Sep 1, 2015, 7:19pm Top

I thought a few comments about the disestablishment plot might be helpful.

"Disestablishment" means, basically, the separation of Church and State, so that each is autonomous and neither plays any role in (or has any power to interfere in) the running of the other.

Traditionally the arguments for disestablishment were, firstly, to abolish anomalous situations such as existed in Ireland, with the Church of England as the official, privileged, "established" church, even though most of the population was Catholic; and secondly, to ensure that the rights of those professing a non-mainstream religion were protected. In the 19th century, the latter was chiefly in regard to the Dissenting religions. Today, the argument tends to be framed in terms of equality of religions, and for that matter of non-belief.

In Phineas Finn, Trollope used hot-button issues such as the secret ballot and Irish tenant rights for his political framework, and discussed the issue of universal franchise---all of which eventually came to pass. However, we should note that disestablishment did not happen, and has not happened. It is an issue that is raised and campaigned for on a fairly regular basis, most recently in 2014, but as things stand it has not happened in England (it has happened in Ireland, Wales and Scotland, though).

Given the way this aspect of the plot plays out in Phineas Redux, I found it very ironic (and very amusing) that in 2014, the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said of disestablishmentarianism that it is "a long-term Liberal idea, but it is not a Conservative one".

Sep 1, 2015, 7:22pm Top

The other thing to keep in mind is the real people behind Trollope's political portraits. In particular, Mr Daubeny, who is the leader of the Conservatives (in power when the novel opens), is a portrait of Benjamin Disraeli. Mr Gresham, the leader of the Liberal opposition, is generally read as a portrait of William Gladstone, although this is a less pointed and detailed character sketch.

Sep 1, 2015, 9:32pm Top

I'm in. Will begin tonight.

Sep 2, 2015, 1:23am Top

Thanks for joining us, Kathy!

Sep 2, 2015, 3:15am Top

I've got my audio version ready (nearly twenty four hours long) and have a copy on my kindle and will start it in a day or two.

Sep 2, 2015, 8:01am Top

I finished this back in July, but I plan to follow along with this thread to get additional insight into a book I really liked.

Sep 2, 2015, 2:49pm Top

I'm in! Hopefully starting tonight.

Sep 2, 2015, 6:23pm Top

Welcome, Kerry, Rebecca and Heather - great to have you here!

Sep 2, 2015, 9:16pm Top

I'm in, since I'm finally "synchronized" with these ongoing group reads of the Palliser novels, having just finished The Eustace Diamonds in August. I accidentally read the first two out of order, and read the first Phineas novel first, and since it has been my favorite so far, I'm looking forward to Phineas Redux.

Edited: Sep 2, 2015, 9:27pm Top

That's fabulous, Deborah - it's great that we have some newbies this time. Please feel free to speak up as much as you like. :)

Sep 2, 2015, 9:58pm Top

I wasn't overwhemingly fond of Phineas Finn as a book, although I liked the character well enough. This book seems to be much more in the style I like. I'm up to Chapter 17, and I'm eager to find out more about Madame Max, who was one of my favorite characters in the earlier novel.

So much for not being in the mood...

Edited: Sep 2, 2015, 9:59pm Top

{*evil laugh*}

Sep 3, 2015, 1:51pm Top

I've started! And I have a question!

Chapter 4

Is Phineas, or someone on Phineas's behalf, buying votes here?

THey're giving 2L 10s. a vote at the Fallgate this minute

Was paying for votes common practice at the time? Was it legal or under the table? Or am I misunderstanding this comment?

Edited: Sep 3, 2015, 6:51pm Top

I've started! And I have a question!


{*girds loins for unnecessarily long answer*}

Bribery was a very common electoral practice up until the time Trollope is describing.

The 19th century saw an ongoing overhaul of the electoral system, which was extremely corrupt, from the Reform Bill of 1832 onwards. "Rotten" boroughs, where there were hardly any voters but still returned an MP, and "pocket" boroughs, where a wealthy landowner had control of who got elected, were progressively eliminated; and there were changes made to try and make sure that the population was properly represented---contrasting the rotten boroughs, there were areas like Manchester where there had been a population explosion due to the Industrial Revolution, but which were very much under-represented in the House of Commons.

Other things that happened were the expansion of the franchise, so that many more men (no women, of course) had the right to vote; the introduction of the secret ballot; and a crackdown on electoral bribery.

The secret ballot and the existence of pocket boroughs were very much intertwined. The people who were against the secret ballot - which included Trollope - argued that for a man to be worthy of the privilege of voting, he should be willing to vote openly. That was all very well in theory, but the reality was that a tenant or a tradesman who voted openly against the candidate who his landlord / best customer wanted elected could and would be punished for it. The secret ballot was intended as a way of protecting the freedom of the vote. (The secret ballot was put into practice in 1872, so just before Trollope started writing Phineas Redux.)

Bribery was not just a common but a standard practice. Votes could be bought by cash in hand, or by promising tradesmen future business, or by promising that a locally influential person (who could himself command votes) would be given a lucrative position. Even when the bribery was not this overt, there were practices such as setting up your electoral headquarters in a particular hotel, on the understanding that the owner would influence the vote in return.

Trollope deals with all of this in his novels. We see the expense-slash-bribery situation in Can You Forgive Her?, where the cost of elections is a major issue for George Vavasor, who ruins himself winning a seat in London and ends up borrowing money from Alice.

Trollope also repeatedly makes the ironic point that although it was the Liberals who were striving for electoral reform, it was also the great Liberal lords who were most likely to abuse the system while it lasted. (Trollope calls these lords the 'Whigs', making the point that they were still exercising their traditional privileges.)

The Duke of Omnium is repeatedly cited as having a pocket borough, with "his" candidate always elected unopposed. You might remember that, towards the end of Framley Parsonage, when Martha Dunstable is feuding with the Duke, she backs the candidacy of Nathaniel Sowerby against the Duke's candidate---the first time an election had actually been contested in that borough.

And in Phineas Finn, when Phineas is having trouble holding onto a seat in the House of Commons, he is elected unopposed in the pocket borough "owned" by the Earl of Brentford, Lady Laura's father, even though Lord Brentford is one of those fighting for electoral reform and the abolition of pocket boroughs. Ironically, Phineas ends up losing his seat when that borough is one of those abolished, following the passage of legislation that he voted for.

The bribery situation was an awkward one (as Trollope will make clear in Phineas Redux) because the practice was so ingrained, there was hardly an MP in the House of Commons who had not got there via some form of unethical expenditure, and most of them felt like hypocrites when it became their responsibility to crack down on it.

Sep 3, 2015, 7:23pm Top

How are all of you getting on with the opening of this book? Has Trollope provided sufficient reminders of what happened at the end of Phineas Finn, or does anyone need a prompt?

Sep 3, 2015, 9:06pm Top

If I had any questions I made the mistake of not writing them down.

I can't let this passage from Chapter 11 go by without comment. Referring to the Earl of Brentford (Lady Laura's father):

In former days the Earl had been a man quite capable of making himself disagreeable, and probably had not yet lost the power of doing so.

This is my favorite line so far in the book! :)

Sep 3, 2015, 10:32pm Top

Oh, Carrie, Carrie... Always write down your questions, people, or at least put in a bookmark!

I never got the impression that Lord Brentford had to try to be disagreeable. :)

Sep 3, 2015, 10:38pm Top

Ebook .... bookmarks ... no highlighting. Sometimes technology creates more problems than it solves. :(

Sep 3, 2015, 10:48pm Top


Edited: Sep 3, 2015, 11:16pm Top

I have a question now! And it may be the one I couldn't remember since it came up a few chapters earlier. I just started Chapter 14 and Lord Chiltern is getting all worked up about stopping the earth. What does that mean? I know less about hunting than politics or the church so I still have difficulty with the hunting scenes.

Sep 3, 2015, 11:16pm Top

>20 lyzard: Thank you--helped a lot. I have a question--

Chapter 3

Do we have any idea where Tankerville is? Or what town Trollope was thinking about?

Sep 3, 2015, 11:35pm Top

Another question--around Chapter 3 or 4 we are introduced to Mr. Molescroft and Adelaide Palliser, although it seems they are known to Our Hero. I can't recall--were either of these characters in Phineas Finn?

Edited: Sep 4, 2015, 12:56am Top

>27 kac522:, >28 kac522:

Chapter 3

No, Tankerville is not a real place - none of Trollope's boroughs are real, partly because of the electoral chicanery, partly (in this case) because Tankerville sounds like rather a depressing spot. We are told that it is a borough in Durham, which is a county in the north-east of England. It was a coal-producing area, which is the cause of Tankerville's lack of aesthetics. :)

Chapter 4

No, neither was in Phineas Finn.

Mr Molescroft is obviously one of the many men on the fringes of politics and who acts as a sort of campaign manager, and liaison between the candidate and local politicos (since very few MPs were known to the people who were expected to elect them!).

Adelaide Palliser is a cousin of Plantagenet Palliser. We have not met her before, but there have been mentions of there being quite an extended Palliser family and lots of cousins and other relatives, although only Plantagenet is important in his own right, as the Duke of Omnium's heir.

Sep 4, 2015, 1:09am Top

>26 cbl_tn:

I thought someone might ask about the hunting feud! - I'll do my best, although goodness knows it's not my area of expertise! :)

I guess the over-arching point is that landowners were expected to preserve both foxes and pheasants - for hunting and shooting, respectively. What is going on here is that someone is preserving the pheasants in Trumperton Woods at the expense of the foxes, which are being trapped and poisoned (as are some of the hounds that venture in).

The whole hunting scenario seems quite bizarre these days but basically this was one time an Englishman's home was not his castle: land was supposed to be open for the fox-hunters, and preserving was supposed to happen whether the landowner cared about hunting or not. This is not happening here. Trumperton Woods belong to the Duke of Omnium, but are so far away from his residences that either they are not being properly managed, or someone is deliberately disobeying orders.

Trumperton Woods is effectively a fox preserve, that is, where the foxes have their "earths" (burrows) and where they breed. Foxes are nocturnal and leave their earths at night. What is supposed to happen is that gamekeepers are sent out at night to block the entrances to the earths, so that the foxes aren't just safely underground when the hunters come looking for them. This is not happening in Trumperton Woods either, hence the failure of the hunting day mentioned in Chapter 2, where we first hear about this feud.

Sep 4, 2015, 6:31am Top

>30 lyzard: Ah! That's making more sense now!

Sep 4, 2015, 1:28pm Top

I'm joining in--glad to get back to some Trollope!

Sep 4, 2015, 1:59pm Top

>30 lyzard: I have to admit that I'm sort of on auto-pilot when reading through the hunting sections. They just don't do anything for me.

Sep 4, 2015, 5:18pm Top

>32 AnneDC:

Hi, Anne - thank you for joining us!

>33 kac522:

Even Trollope admitted they were a self-indulgence. BUT - he does use them to reveal character, and they provide an opportunity for unchaperoned conversation between men and women.

Edited: Sep 4, 2015, 5:52pm Top

Something struck me on this reading of Phineas Finn that I thought I would just put out there for your consideration.

General though mostly vague spoilers for the whole novel

One of the criticisms of, or areas of dissatisfaction with, this novel is the relationship between Adelaide Palliser and Gerard Maule. Many critics have suggested it was just thrown in as a sop, and many readers have found it uninvolving.

However, I think the point of it is not just to have a conventional romance in the book, but as one of the threads of something that, on this reading, seemed to me an important theme of the novel---the correct attitude to work.

There was a great revolution in the ideas around this point across the 19th century. In the early decades it was unthinkable that a gentleman should work - with a very few excepted professions, if a man did work he was by definition not a gentleman - but over the years, with the nation increasingly industrialised and the middle-classes coming into prominence, it became more accepted, even expected, that young men should find a paying occupation. Obviously there were still those who had an income that made this unnecessary, but where that income did not exist, a man was supposed to find work, not live off his family and friends.

All throughout this novel there are contrasting points made about how a gentleman should live to be a gentleman. For example, there is an explicit contrast drawn between the Duke of Omnium and Plantagenet Palliser. The former is openly stigmatised as selfish, hedonistic and completely idle---yet he is much more respected than Plantagenet, whose one idea is service to others and who works ridiculous hours in support of that ideal.

Gerard Maule and his father have the same approach to life as the Duke: they wouldn't soil their hands with work. At the same time we have conversations in the novel about how these days, even men of high rank are going into business and forming partnerships and giving their time to a profession.

And at the far end of the spectrum we have Lord Chiltern, working relentlessly and even obsessively at something as unimportant as fox-hunting: the work ethic taken to an absurd extreme.

And then of course we have Phineas himself, who needs to work, and wants to work---but only if he can do one particular kind of work.

Trollope doesn't really editorialise about any of this; he doesn't tell us who he thinks is "right", or what a gentleman "should" do. He just weaves all this into his main narrative, never as a prominent storyline, but rather as constant background noise.

However, all this strikes me as interesting in light of Trollope's comments in his autobiography, in which he made it plain that he approached his novel-writing as a job, working at it for a set number of hours every day, and worrying about his income. Those admissions did enormous damage to Trollope's reputation as a novelist: there was a feeling that a man who treated writing as a job could not be an artist - could not be a great novelist - and he was effectively dismissed by a lot of the critics as a consequence. It wasn't until fairly recently that he recovered his standing. (Ironically, this echoes the situation that Trollope creates in this novel, in the general attitudes to Plantagenet and his uncle.)

But to go back to my original point, it seems to me the Gerard-Adelaide situation is less of a romance and more a reflection of Trollope's increasing interest in the position of women. Almost always, a woman is trapped by her circumstances and reliant upon the actions of her menfolk---but what if she is tied to a man who will not help himself?

Sep 4, 2015, 6:23pm Top

I have another hunting question from Chapter 16. It is mentioned that the 200 or so people who show up for the hunt will have an expense of about 5 pounds each for the day. What would these expenses include? Did they have to pay to participate, like the fee to run in the Boston Marathon, a green fee to play golf, etc.? Would Lord Chiltern make any money from this?

Edited: Sep 4, 2015, 6:51pm Top

Chapter 16

Transport both for the hunter and his / her* horses was the main expense. Unless you were invited to stay at a house in the neighbourhood, you and your horses had to get to the starting-point, usually by rail. Or you might stay at an inn, and have to pay for the accommodation of yourself and your horses. Or you might have to hire horses, if you couldn't afford to keep them. A hunt often led far away from base and meals would be obtained (and paid for) at a public house. And when it was over, you and your horses had to get home again.

(*Women did hunt, but usually did not travel to hunts, or keep hunters, as men did. A few "sporting" women might, but generally women tended to hunt on borrowed horses, while staying with friends.)

No, Lord Chiltern would not earn money from this; on the contrary. Being Master of Hounds was a privilege, but it was also a very big personal expense. You might recall in Dr Thorne, this one was one of the constant bones of contention between Mr Gresham and Lady Arabella, that he would not cede his position as Master of Hounds in spite of the expense and their increasingly parlous financial situation.

Sep 4, 2015, 10:49pm Top

>35 lyzard: Trollope's falling out of favor seems a bit unfair, in view of Dickens and his horrendous work schedules, which included public performances of some of his works.

Also, I wonder if Chiltern's obsession could be compared to Planty Pal's?

I'm the opposite of a fan of hunting, but I see the value of the setting for quiet conversations illustrative of character. It's hard to sympathize with Chiltern, though.

Sep 5, 2015, 12:08am Top

Yes! Dickens did that chiefly for the money, and yet somehow it was always interpreted as just a different form of artistic expression. (Which it was too...) Trollope's sin seems not to have been doing it, but admitting her did it.

I think what we have there is the contrast between useful and misplaced effort.

I don't think we're supposed to sympathise with Chiltern so much as be glad he has an outlet for his aggression. (Though probably Trollope did sympathise a bit.)

Sep 5, 2015, 11:28am Top

I think I'm a little bit behind everyone else. One question from the end of chapter 2 - I really am struggling to remember anything much about Augusta Boreham (Lady Baldock's daughter) from Phineas Finn. Is there anything significant I should remember?

Sep 5, 2015, 1:25pm Top

Bit of a prig, from what I remember. Wasn't she rather reserved and hung around her mother? So to go off to the convent must have been a shock!

Sep 5, 2015, 3:32pm Top

>40 souloftherose:, >41 kac522:

Yes, that's about it - she was the repressed spinster daughter.

Sep 5, 2015, 8:57pm Top

>20 lyzard: thank you for that explanation

>35 lyzard: also went ahead and read this and am now noticing examples of what you describe about work

I have a couple of questions/comments

Chapter 12
I find it so sad that Lady Laura thinks of herself as so old at 32. There are more reasons for this than just age since her life experience has aged her and also changed her status in society, but I thought it was interesting that even the usually (lovably) self-absorbed Phineas thinks that they are the same age and she is old and done while he has so much life ahead of him.

Chapter 27

Is the Prince mentioned as coming to the Duke's home at Gatherum Castle Prince Albert? My British history is weak. Also, why would the Prince not want to see Madame Max?

Also, just curious, any idea how old Madame Max is? I think I've been picturing her older than she's intended to be.

This is a chapter where I noticed some of your points in >35 lyzard:. Madame Max is very much on the side of the Duke's style of living over Plantagenet Palliser's constant working at the expense of never having "a moment to speak to his wife of anybody else.".

Edited: Sep 6, 2015, 1:27pm Top

>43 japaul22: Prince Albert died in 1861 so I think the Prince referred to would have been Victoria and Albert's eldest son, Prince Albert Edward, who became King Edward VII on Victoria's death in 1901. At one point in chapter 27 Madame Max says:

'For two days I wore my jewels beneath royal eyes,—eyes that will sooner or later belong to absolute majesty.'

which I think implies the Prince she saw was the heir to the throne.

ETA: I also can't figure out how old Madame Max is. I got the impression from Phineas Finn that she was older but if 32 is considered old she could still be fairly young!

Edited: Sep 6, 2015, 6:31pm Top

>43 japaul22:

Chapter 12

Although we haven't yet shaken off the idea that men and women get "old" at a very different age, we also need to keep in mind that at the time girls tended to marry earlier and have children right away, so they could be perceived as having fulfilled their function when still young in years.

In Evelina (published 1778), one of the minor male characters says something like, "I don't know why any woman bothers living past thirty."

But as far as Laura goes, it is certainly a reflection of the unhappiness and strain of her life - she has suffered wear and tear that a woman in her position usually wouldn't.

Chapter 27

Yes, though it is unusual for Trollope to use a real person so frankly (particularly royalty!), he is certainly referring to the Prince of Wales.

With regard to Madame Max's view of the Duke, possibly she is trying to justify to herself the amount of time she devoted to him? Though no-one has ever argued with the Duke as an institution, or a spectacle. :)

Edited: Sep 7, 2015, 6:52pm Top

>43 japaul22:, >44 souloftherose:

With respect to Madame Max, Trollope is guilty of some jiggery-pokery. Reading Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux together, I think it is quite obvious that his whole conception of the character, and what he wanted to do with her, changed as he developed her. His language about her changes significantly: when first introduced, she is presented as a mysterious and perhaps disreputable figure, and there is much emphasis on her late husband who (sigh!) may have been Jewish. But as the story progresses all that drops away. Not for the first time, Trollope gets interested in the workings of a character's mind, and once that happens a sympathetic tone begins to emerge.

In addition to all that, in Phineas Finn it is clear that Madame Max is several years older than Phineas, but here they are more or less the same age. Which means she's also more or less the same age as Laura, and an explicit contrast is eventually drawn between the two women.

Sep 7, 2015, 2:04am Top

Sorry to back it up a bit:

Chapter 6

In the first paragraph of this chapter, what is meant by "get the seat on a petition?" Is it like an appeal or challenge to the votes cast, or is it a re-count of the votes, or something else?

Edited: Sep 10, 2015, 6:18pm Top

Not at all! :)

Chapter 6

Yes, it's a formal appeal against the outcome of an election, in this case on the grounds that there was bribery and vote-buying. The petition is made to the courts, and if he felt there were sufficient grounds a judge would appoint an investigator to examine the circumstances.

Sep 7, 2015, 4:57am Top

>48 lyzard: Thanks--glad to have that straight before I move on.

I'm also struck by how Phineas in no uncertain terms will not return to Ireland (at least at this early point in the novel). There's no discussion about the friends & family members (sisters, right?) that he left behind. Seems abrupt to me, and without feeling; we are only told of the lure of the Big City. So far I don't have much sympathy for this Phineas.

Sep 7, 2015, 5:59am Top

I developed an affection for Phineas in the first novel, and so far that's unchanged for me. In the first novel he did have people in Ireland who missed him and who would be harmed by his failure. I take it that this time around he does not, and that's wht he is willing to give politics another try. His wife and child have both died as well as his father.

Edited: Sep 7, 2015, 6:41pm Top

>49 kac522:, >50 cbl_tn:

I think we need to be careful not to over-read this. Phineas has been separated from the rest of his family for the last two years or more, because of having to move to Dublin to take up his government position. If he had not returned to London, he still would have been living in Dublin, not with his mother and sisters.

It is also stated clearly that Phineas has no dependents, so we can infer that with Phineas off his hands, Dr Finn was able to make proper provision for his wife and however many of his daughters were unmarried at the time of his death.

Complete separations of this kind were a very common thing at the time. It was taken for granted that young men with their living to earn would go out into the world and perhaps never come home. It was also an era of emigration, and many young men left Britain altogether (and in particular, the Irish, because of the famine). Boys as young as sixteen were routinely packed off to India and didn't see their families for years, if ever again; or conversely, parents in India sent their children to England to relatives or to boarding-school.

It's one of those things where we need to avoid judging by modern standards and conditions.

Sep 7, 2015, 8:33pm Top

I spotted an interesting slip of the tongue in Chapter 22, I think it was, when Slide is referred to by someone as Septimus Slope. :-)

Sep 7, 2015, 8:45pm Top

One that tells us exactly what to think of him!! :D

Edited: Sep 8, 2015, 8:31am Top

>49 kac522:, >50 cbl_tn:, >51 lyzard: I noticed that too, but with Liz think it's a symptom of the times. I'm finding in this novel that Phineas, for whom I feel bemused affection, is developing a fine sense of right/wrong or honor/dishonor. This started in the last book, especially in his relationship with Laura and his reaction to voting with the party rather than with his beliefs.

Again, I'm finding this story much more engaging than the previous one. It reads right along, in that easy, friendly manner which makes me love Trollope. I'm in the middle of Chapter 33, and find the whole business about the disestablishment of the C of E weirdly--and sadly--reminiscent of today's politics here in the US.

One question. At some point a character is described as having "chambers in a flat." I'm not sure what this means, precisely.

ETA: Spectacle is the perfect word to describe the late Duke, a character I strongly disliked.

Edited: Sep 8, 2015, 11:17pm Top

I think this time around Phineas has less stars in his eyes for a number of reasons.

This book also follows on from Phineas Finn in its consideration of the difference between personal honour and political honour: we see again and again the assertion that because Phineas once acted on his personal beliefs, he's not to be trusted politically.

Gail, the political manoeuvring around the disestablishment made me howl with laughter, because we have exactly the same sort of behaviour going on here at the moment---our version of the Conservatives have suddenly begun to take an interest in things they normally don't care about, issues that have traditionally "belonged" to the current Opposition. Election on the distant horizon? You betcha!

Chapter 22

It's Mr Maule Sr whose living arrangements are being described. Blocks of self-contained flats (apartments) were slowly becoming more popular at this time, as opposed to owning / renting a house, or living as a lodger (as Phineas still does). However, "chambers" indicates that Mr Maule does not have a full suite of rooms, probably because he spends most of his time at his clubs - it's likely that he doesn't have servants' rooms, or a kitchen.

Edited: Sep 8, 2015, 11:05pm Top

There's something about Mr. Maule Senior that reminds me of old Mr. Turveydrop and his obsession with deportment in Dickens' Bleak House. I guess they have a similar attitude toward work.

Edited: Sep 8, 2015, 11:19pm Top

Yes, that's a good comparison! - although Mr Maule has a bit more difficulty getting people to accept him at his own estimation. :)

The character embodies the idea that being a gentleman was a full-time profession. Fifty or sixty years earlier this was widely accepted, but by now the world has moved on.

Sep 9, 2015, 11:00am Top

I'm up to chapter 30-something (don't have the book in front of me) and one thing I'm a little disappointed by is the lack of "authorial interjections" that I've come to love from Trollope. I like when he inserts himself into the narrative to give an opinion on a character or foreshadow an event or theme and I'm missing that in this book.

Overall it's ok because I love these characters so I'm still very much enjoying the book, but I wonder if there's a reason for this?

Edited: Sep 9, 2015, 6:44pm Top

Generally, Trollope does this less in his more serious novels. The interjections are prominent in the Barchester novels because they are generally lighter in tone; and because with Trollope, people tend to start with the Barchester books, they often get the impression that he did that all the time, but it's more situational.

For what it's worth there's one major interjection in Phineas Redux, though not a comic one; more in the nature of reassurance. (Though much more serious, it's rather like the reassurance about who Eleanor will *not* marry in Barchester Towers - "And you shouldn't need me to tell you that!")

Sep 10, 2015, 3:51pm Top

I'm reading (about halfway through) but don't seem to have much to say except that I am appreciating more and more Liz's comments on work (>35 lyzard:) and agree about the Mr Turveydrop/Mr Maule comparison (>56 cbl_tn:).

Edited: Sep 10, 2015, 6:53pm Top

I had another thought leading to some more

general though mostly vague spoilers for the whole novel

Expanding on the point made in >55 lyzard:, Trollope does something interesting around Phineas's position in the wake of his earlier decision to vote with Mr Monk on Irish tenant rights and then resign his office. We see that despite him obediently calling Phineas back to the party, Barrington Erle doesn't really trust him; while Mr Bonteen, who dislikes him personally, uses it as a basis to hinder his political advancement. This situation of course becomes increasingly important as the novel goes on, as Phineas becomes more desperate to obtain office and Mr Bonteen for a variety of reasons becomes more determined to keep him out.

The irony is that the issue that built up all this distrust, Irish tenant rights, was taken up by the party about a year later. So there's no separation of belief between Phineas and the Liberals on that point. However, the fact that he "jumped early" instead of waiting for when the party though the time was ripe makes him politically untrustworthy.

More broadly, we get Phineas's personal difficulties in this respect foregrounded against a background of individual Conservatives struggling with the same sort of problem in the wake of Mr Daubeny's disestablishment manoeuvre---having to choose between party and personal conviction. Some genuinely believe in "party uber alles" (as Erle and Bonteen do on the other side), some grit their teeth and vote with the party, some do and then feel sick and ashamed of themselves, some resign, many vote the other way.

The overriding point being that there are no hard and fast rules, and that whether an individual is perceived as right or wrong is purely a matter of circumstance, and maybe luck.

We note a real contrast in the attitude expressed towards Parliament and politics in Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux, with Phineas's idealistic attitude giving way to a clearer vision, one perhaps a little disillusioned. This journey echoes Trollope's own---he obviously started out every bit as idealistic as Phineas, but became severely disillusioned in the wake of his attempt to enter politics himself.

What Trollope didn't realise when his candidacy was accepted was that he was not expected to win, but that his campaign would pave the way for the exposure of a corrupt borough---nota bene, a borough notorious for vote-buying and intimidation of voters. As far as the Liberals were concerned their plan worked, as there was close scrutiny of the situation and eventually the borough was disenfranchised. Trollope, however, was shocked by the dirtiness of the politics and the cynicism of the handling of the matter.

So it's interesting that in Phineas Redux Trollope chooses to put Phineas back in the House via similar events, with the successful Conservative candidate being ousted on appeal.

Sep 11, 2015, 10:18pm Top

I'm up to about Chapter 51 and things have really become interesting!

Sep 12, 2015, 6:26am Top

>62 cbl_tn: They have, haven't they?!

Edited: Sep 12, 2015, 9:42pm Top

I'm at Chapter 57 Madame Max has my admiration. No change there from the first novel, as I thought she was quite a fine lady then, too.

Here's something political I've noticed: the recently (as in yesterday) chosen new leader of the Labour Party in Britain is known as a "defiant" MP since he's voted against his own party an incredible number of times over a long career...I want to say 400, but it might be 100. These votes include voting against the Iraq war. Some seem to despise him for this; others see him as a bold sort of independent fellow who sticks to his principles. So some things never change, I guess.

I have about 3 more things to talk about, but will wait a bit. I'm loving this novel far more than Phineas Finn, although Trollope considered them one (very) long novel.

Sep 12, 2015, 10:11pm Top

>57 lyzard: I'm at about the same spot, and I'm also becoming a Madame Max fan. I think she would make a good detective in a historical mystery series!

Edited: Sep 12, 2015, 10:24pm Top

I have some things to say about what I will call "Phineas's situation", but I will wait until everyone's finished (too spoileriffic!).

Sep 13, 2015, 1:13pm Top

My mental image of tall, handsome, Irish Phineas has settled on Pierce Brosnan from his Remington Steele days.

Sep 13, 2015, 1:18pm Top

>67 cbl_tn: Oh my. *Heart flutters*

Sep 13, 2015, 3:05pm Top

>67 cbl_tn: My edition has the original illustrations which keep reminding me that Victorian gentlemen of that time were either bearded or side burned or both. It keeps surprising me how often my mental image of Phineas defaults to a clean-shaven man before I'm reminded by another illustration that readers would have expected facial hair.

I've finished - enjoyed this a lot. Definitely more than Phineas Finn which for some reason I wasn't as keen on. Will hold off on comments for a bit.

Sep 13, 2015, 5:28pm Top

>69 souloftherose: Maybe all the women find him so attractive because he's clean-shaven? That's my story and I'm sticking to it! ;-)

Edited: Sep 13, 2015, 6:26pm Top

Sorry, Carrie!---

Phineas Finn, Chapter VI:

Phineas himself, it may be here said, was six feet high, and very handsome, with bright blue eyes, and brown wavy hair, and light silken beard. Mrs Low had told her husband more than once that he was much too handsome to do any good...

Edited: Sep 13, 2015, 6:32pm Top

I was recently reading something from 1843 wherein one character believed that whiskers on a young man indicated that he was not to be trusted, so I'm guessing the fashion was just starting to come in at that time. Military men usually had whiskers and a moustache (though not a beard), however; perhaps that's where it caught on from.

Sep 13, 2015, 7:43pm Top

>67 cbl_tn: I've been picturing more of a Hugh Grant type - more charming than suave. But yeah, no beard in my mental image either!

Sep 13, 2015, 8:18pm Top

>71 lyzard: I imagine him shaving the beard off in between chapters somewhere.

>73 japaul22: Hugh Grant is good, too! I went with Pierce Brosnan because he's Irish.

Sep 13, 2015, 9:42pm Top

I've finished the book as well.

Sep 14, 2015, 8:50pm Top

>69 souloftherose:, >75 cbl_tn:

Well done, ladies!

Where are our other readers up to? I don't want to give anything away by rushing into general comments.

Sep 14, 2015, 11:31pm Top

Chapter 32--averaging 5 chapters a day.

Sep 14, 2015, 11:51pm Top

Thanks, Kathy - in that case I'll keep quiet for a bit longer! :)

Sep 15, 2015, 2:19pm Top

I've finished and I loved it. I have a few things I'd like to ask about or discuss. Should I wait a bit or just head posts with "spoiler" warnings?

Sep 15, 2015, 6:21pm Top

We might wait a bit more to see whether Gail and Deborah check in.

Sep 15, 2015, 10:49pm Top

I'm done. Finished yesterday. Loved it, btw. Have some questions/comments but am holding off for others to be done.

Sep 15, 2015, 11:07pm Top


I'm glad you decided to join us, Gail, and it sounds like you are, too. :)

Sep 16, 2015, 6:22pm Top

Okay---we might open up now for some general discussion. Perhaps a heading of general spoilers for the whole novel is the way to go?

I am very interested to see whether your discussion points are the same as mine! :)

Sep 16, 2015, 7:48pm Top

General spoilers for the whole novel

One point I'd like to bring up is the contrast that Trollope sets ups between Adelaide Palliser and Lady Laura. Adelaide has a choice for marriage between a poor but handsome man who she loves (Gerard Maule) and a wealthy older man who she has zero attraction for (Mr. Spooner). Adelaide never considers marrying Mr. Spooner, but many women in her position might have. Laura chose a loveless but wealthy marriage over a poor but love-based one and it has disastrous results which we see throughout this book.

In the end, though, I wonder if Adelaide's marriage for love will be happy? Lady Glencora solves their money problems (though I found that plot twist rather weak), but still, Gerard is so boring. I suppose she already knows that, and Adelaide is sort of boring herself, but they don't make a very compelling couple.

Edited: Sep 16, 2015, 8:10pm Top

General spoilers for the whole novel

I agree with you---as I said up above, I don't think we're supposed to be invested in this romance as a romance: I think, as you say, it's a commentary upon the choices that women make, why they make them, and what the consequences are; a commentary that slots into Trollope's larger consideration of the position of women.

The question left hanging is, what would Adelaide have done had Glencora not intervened? Would marriage with a man with no notion of either work or economy followed, or an engagement that drifted on for years (possibly until Mr Maule died)? We instinctively embrace Adelaide's rejection of the interested marriage, but we are left to ponder the impracticalities involved in being so very disinterested.

Sep 19, 2015, 2:17pm Top

>84 japaul22:, >85 lyzard: Good points. I hadn't noticed the parallels between Adelaide's marriage and Lady Laura's before.

General spoilers for the whole novel

I was really struck by the realism and sympathy shown by Trollope to Phineas' emotional reaction to the aftermath of the trial. It made complete sense to me that Phineas might be able to hold everything together throughout the trial and then collapse (emotionally) afterwards. There seemed to be quite a lot of references throughout the novel to Phineas' 'manliness' - he was generally seen as manly before and during the trial but his reaction after the trial was not seen as manly. I felt Trollope didn't really agree with this dichotomy but I may have been reading my own views on this subject into the author's!

On a completely unrelated note, I did find myself occasionally annoyed with Phineas' behaviour towards Lady Laura and Madame Max. He's a nice guy but sometimes he's a bit too nice to say no and so ends up putting his arm round Laura's waist when he knows he shouldn't because he knows she has feelings for him and he doesn't have feelings for her but he does it anyway. Grrr. And he kissed Madame Max but at least he did propose to her eventually.

Sep 19, 2015, 5:22pm Top

General spoilers for the whole novel

>86 souloftherose:

I agree with you completely, and that was one of the points that I wanted to raise.

I think this is another illustration of Trollope's interest in---I don't want to say "aberrant psychology", because that's too strong a term, but the psychology of people who can't feel as other people think they "ought" to feel, people whose emotional reactions put them out of step with the majority. Trollope's He Knew He Was Right - which does ultimately examine an aberrant psychology - is his most extensive investigation in this area.

Phineas, meanwhile, is allied with Lily Dale, another person who suffered under the constant lash of being told how she "ought" to feel about her situation. But Phineas's situation is worse because, as you point out, he is accused of "unmanliness": it's not just that he has the wrong feelings, but that he has feelings at all, and shows that he does.

Trollope's handling of this is interesting because to an extent he invites the reader to sympathise with the people getting impatient with Phineas---not, I think, because he really wants us to do that, but because he recognises that the impatience is the common response, that there is a point where other people's feelings become a nuisance: we want them to "snap out of it" not because it's better for them, but because it's easier for us.

In this case, though it isn't completely articulated, I think there's an aspect of accusation and defensiveness. A large measure of Phineas's inability to "get over it" stems from his realisation of how many people, how many of his friends, thought he was guilty. And not just of murder, but of this kind of murder: anyone can lose their temper and hit someone, but in this case Mr Bonteen was followed down a dark alley and hit from behind. It's a revelation that completes the disillusionment that has marked Phineas's journey all through the novel.

(One of my other points leads out of this; I'll say more below.)

Sep 19, 2015, 5:34pm Top

General spoilers for the whole novel

>86 souloftherose:

Well, there's always been a large measure of unwisdom in Phineas's behaviour with women. But it is particularly difficult with regard to Laura because of all the emotional complications. I have a little more sympathy with him in this instance because all the behaviours that are self-evidently correct from the outside really do look like cruelty up close.

But the reality of the situation is that Phineas ultimately cannot be anything but cruel---if he cannot give Laura what she wants the only alternative is to separate himself from her permanently. And I find a suggestion in the novel's wrap-up that one of the unspoken advantages of Phineas's marriage to Madame Max is that it will, immediately and permanently, sever his connection with Laura in a way he can't bring himself to do head on.

Sep 19, 2015, 5:51pm Top

General spoilers for the whole novel

One of the things I wanted to talk about was what might have been behind the direction Trollope took his plot in Phineas Redux, in having Phineas tried for murder.

The excuse given by Phineas's doubters is that if he was made to stand trial, then he was almost certainly guilty, because the system functions to prevent miscarriages of justice.

However, as anyone who has read much Victorian true crime can tell you (and Heather can back me up on this!), there were a disturbing number of criminal cases in which people were convicted and executed on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence, and conversely a great deal of public concern over the conduct of the police and the functioning of the judicial system. The platitudes that Trollope has his characters trot out about how infrequently mistakes are made are exactly the same platitudes that the powers-that-be trotted out in real life, but we see that Trollope's action contradicts this comforting theory just as the circumstances of many real criminal trials did.

It seems to me that Trollope is playing a sort of double game here, not criticising the system openly but showing how easy it was for someone to be falsely convicted - and at a time when there was very little delay between conviction and execution for a mistake to be rectified - and in doing so, reflecting the growing concern of the public.

And if anything this sense that the police and the courts were not functioning as they were needed to only grew stronger over the following years, climaxing in the non-apprehension of Jack the Ripper, which brought about a significant overhaul of police procedure.

We should note, however, the literary response to this situation: we can thank these prevailing doubts about the legal system for the creation of Sherlock Holmes. A large part of the character's appeal was the comforting thought of someone able to step in and prevent miscarriages of justice; Holmes actually refers to himself at one point as "the final court of appeal". And in fact, the British passion for the amateur detective, who exists to solve cases that the police can't and to protect the innocent from the legal system itself, can be traced back to this time of public apprehension.

Jun 15, 8:38pm Top

Bumping this thread as I'm listening to this!

Jul 1, 11:18pm Top

Chapter 47 OMG! Two things I love in a book collide. Trollope being one and Murder being the other. Love a good murder, although, I don't think it's too much of mystery who done it. Maybe I'll be surprised!

Jul 2, 1:38am Top


I don't think so; it's more about the ignominy of being considered guilty than whodunit.

Jul 5, 12:26am Top

Chapter 62

Mr. Chaffanbrass smiled at his victim, and for a moment was quite soft with him,—as a cat is soft with a mouse.

Hee Hee! Mr. Fawn is so annoying.

>92 lyzard: Indeed. Phineas was very eloquent regarding that very topic.

Jul 5, 12:35am Top

I'm still working my way through The Macdermots Of Ballycloran, which also climaxes in a court case; and although Trollope does give us one thoroughly honest, thoroughly conscientious lawyer, in the prosecutor we have his first example of the win-regardless type, of whom he was always so disapproving and suspicious. He was less detached then, less able to enjoy the situation, as he can with Mr Chaffenbrass (although of course he still disapproves!).

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