out of 5
Review by Alistair
This novel, the fifth in Trollope's 'Palliser' series, is one that holds the traditonal form of the greatest of 19th century English literature novels. It deals ostensibly with two large themes; that of the close-knit aristocratic society that governed Britain at said time and the idea of familial interference in marriage. Obviously, one of the defining points of English literature as opposed to Continental literature is that it deals more with sociological issues than philosophical ones. It is in this vein that the book covers these two points as they are of considerable sociological importance. For the former point, because Whiggery and Liberalism in the UK (Palliser, the eponymous Prime Minster is a member of the Liberal Party) is seen as the ideology of emancipation for all men, the removal of royal patronage and influence and in turn for the economic and self-determined libertarian advancement of the populace. What is marvellous about this book is that it shows that what Whig government meant in reality was just the replacement of a hereditary aristocracy with a social aristocracy, with patronage, small elites and the centralisation of wealth and influence within said 'court', ergo no real change. It does this through showing us the difference in attitudes between Palliser and his wife, Lady Glencora. Upon his accession to the premiership, Palliser immediately turns to engaging himself in the administrative side of his government, thusly becoming an even more introspective and secluded individual than in the previous four novels in the series; with his overwhelming sense of duty, responsiblility and innate statesmanship taking precedence. However, his administration (as were many up until the late 19th century) was a coalition government and his wife duly places emphasis on the importance of social functions and PR to the stability of his cabinet, therefore emphasising the importance of the social class and the circles in which the ruling elite move. Hardly moving away from the Tory traditions at all.
The latter point is of great importance because of the concept of Western liberal society as a whole. It is duly noted and plainly obvious that said culture promotes the idea of liberty; that the individual should have the right to religious freedoms, freedom of movement, in est to live the way the individual chooses within the bounds of the law. What this book shows is that, like the first point, is that freedom is heavily restricted by the socio-economic class one is born into and this is exemplified through Ferdinand Lopez's quest to marry Emily Wharton, the heiress to her QC father's considerable estate and the troubles he faces trying to convince her father to let his daughter marry someone outside of the financial elite. Thusly drawing a parallel between the fallacy of the 'free' society in western culture and the 'oppressive' eastern cultures that arrange marriges, inhibiting the freedoms of a liberal society