[In the twenty-third chapter of The Small House at Allington, when all the reader's attention remains on the unpleasant de Courcys and Lily's faithless suitor Crosbie, Trollope introduces us to one of the most important characters in his imaginative world — Plantagenet Palliser, who will become the immensely rich and powerful Duke of Omnium (the “Duke of Everything”) and the organizing center of the Palliser series of seven novels that take him from young manhood to old age. Palliser, who appears a rather dry fellow who won't laugh with others, turns out to be a lovable character, but one so eccentric as Prime Minister (in the novel of that name) that he wishes to convert the U. K. to decimal currency. When the mean-spirited Earl “was tickled” by hearing that a relative had been tossed by a bull, Palliser enters the action with the remark, “I don't see anything to laugh at. . . . I'll be shot if I do. From all I hear De Guest is an uncommon good farmer. And I don't see the joke of tossing a farmer merely because he's a nobleman also."” The narrator then introduces this apparently minor character at considerable length and with little hint of how he will make his readers like this character. — George P. Landow]

Mr. Plantagenet Palliser was the Duke of Omnium's heir—heir to that nobleman's title and to his enormous wealth; and, therefore, was a man of mark in the world. He sat in the House of Commons, of course. He was about five-and-twenty years of age, and was, as yet, unmarried. He did not hunt or shoot or keep a yacht, and had been heard to say that he had never put a foot upon a race-course in his life. He dressed very quietly, never changing the colour or form of his garments; and in society was quiet, reserved, and very often silent. He was tall, slight, and not ill-looking; but more than this cannot be said for his personal appearance—except, indeed, this, that no one could mistake him for other than a gentleman. With his uncle, the duke, he was on good terms—that is to say, they had never quarrelled. A very liberal allowance had been made to the nephew; but the two relatives had no tastes in common, and did not often meet. Once a year Mr. Palliser visited the duke at his great country seat for two or three days, and usually dined with him two or three times during the season in London. Mr. Palliser sat for a borough which was absolutely under the duke's command; but had accepted his seat under the distinct understanding that he was to take whatever part in politics might seem good to himself. Under these well-understood arrangements, the duke and his heir showed to the world quite a pattern of a happy family. "So different to the earl and Lord Porlock!" the people of West Barsetshire used to say. For the estates, both of the duke and of the earl, were situated in the western division of that county.

Mr. Palliser was chiefly known to the world as a rising politician. We may say that he had everything at his command, in the way of pleasure, that the world could offer him. He had wealth, position, power, and the certainty of attaining the highest rank among, perhaps, the most brilliant nobility of the world. He was courted by all who could get near enough to court him. It is hardly too much to say that he might have selected a bride from all that was most beautiful and best among English women. If he would have bought race-horses, and have expended thousands on the turf, he would have gratified his uncle by doing so. He might have been the master of hounds, or the slaughterer of hecatombs of birds. But to none of these things would he devote himself. He had chosen to be a politician, and in that pursuit he laboured with a zeal and perseverance which would have made his fortune at any profession or in any trade. He was constant in committee-rooms up to the very middle of August. He was rarely absent from any debate of importance, and never from any important division. Though he seldom spoke, he was always ready to speak if his purpose required it. No man gave him credit for any great genius—few even considered that he could become either an orator or a mighty statesman. But the world said that he was a rising man, and old Nestor of the Cabinet looked on him as one who would be able, at some far future day, to come among them as a younger brother. Hitherto he had declined such inferior offices as had been offered to him, biding his time carefully; and he was as yet tied hand and neck to no party, though known to be liberal in all his political tendencies. He was a great reader—not taking up a book here, and another there, as chance brought books before him, but working through an enormous course of books, getting up the great subject of the world's history—filling himself full of facts—though perhaps not destined to acquire the power of using those facts otherwise than as precedents. He strove also diligently to become a linguist—not without success, as far as a competent understanding of various languages. He was a thin-minded, plodding, respectable man, willing to devote all his youth to work, in order that in old age he might be allowed to sit among the Councillors of the State.

References

Trollope, Anthony. The Small House at Allington. Project Gutenberg E-text prepared by Andrew Turek and revised by Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D., and an anonymous Project Gutenberg volunteer.


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Last modified 23 September 2013