January 9, 2024

Cocktail Talk: The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk

Another Anthony Trollope novel I can’t believe hasn’t been featured here with a Cocktail Talk quote already (considering how many Trollope Cocktail Talks there are), The Prime Minister is one of the Palliser series of novels, which revolve in the main around the 1800s political scene. Fictional, I suppose I should say, though many non-fictional personages are mentioned, too. And with characters coming in and out of the novels, if you read a few in a row, or even over a series of years, they become as lifelike to you as any historical figure, perhaps (and perhaps that was part of Trollope’s genius). This book, like many of his, has multiple plot lines running, and he weaves them together fairly well, but not, for me, as well as my favorites of the Palliser books, Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux – though our friend Phineas does show in The Prime Minister, which made me happy! Not that this isn’t a grand read (and some like it as much or more than any Trollope – Tolstoy, for one, and he knows thing), but, and I can admit it could be that I re-read it recently directly after re-reading Phineas Redux, I personally don’t love it as much as other Trollope’s. I love it, much of it, don’t get me wrong. Just not as much! It centers around our old friend Plantagenet Palliser (who, along with his awesome wife Glencora, star in the book that kicks off the series, and then show throughout), who becomes Prime Minister, for better or worse. And then also centers for much of the book around a man named Ferdinand Lopez (a foreigner by birth, or so thought, and whose characteristics and ethnicity are often discussed in a manner that while mirroring I’d guess the manner of the time, doesn’t sit well often in our time – Trollope was a very accurate mirror, for better or worse I suppose), who might not be as savory as a gentleman should be, though I don’t want to give away too much, and his wife-to-be and then wife, Emily Wharton. The plots intermingle and outer mingle, and I found myself wishing for more of the former, but that may vary on the reader. What won’t vary is a wish for the time when everyone had sherry for breakfast, as in the below quote.

At about nine the Duke had returned, and was eating his very simple dinner in the breakfast-room – a beefsteak and a potato, with a glass of sherry and Apollinaris water. No man more easily satisfied as to what he and and drank lived in London in those days. As regarded the eating and drinking he dined alone, but his wife sat with him and waited on him, having sent the servant out of the room. “I have told her Majesty that I would do the best I could,” said the Duke.

“Then you are Prime Minister.”

“Not at all. Mr. Daubeny is Prime Minister. I have undertaken to form a ministry, if I find it practicable, with the assistance of such friends as I possess. I never felt before that I had to lean so entirely on others as I do now.”

“Lean on yourself only. Be enough for yourself.”

— Anthony Trollope, The Prime Minister

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