[Throughout Trollope's career he writes about politics — defined as the acquisition, management, and loss of power at the personal, local, and national levels. Sometimes as in The Prime Minister, he deals with making decisions and the exercise of power at the highest level even though the title character cannot achieve very much, certainly not even his pet project, the conversion of the U.K. to decimal currency to help the nation's international trade — a goal Trollope chose to indicate Plantagenet Palliser's eccentric ideas. Politics and the effects of the closely linked maters of political and economic power permeate Framley Parsonage, where the relation of the protagonist — one cannot call him “hero” — to his patron Lady Lufton, Bishop Proudie, and Sowersby and Sowersby's government connections who procure for Mark a plum appointment one major axis of the novel. But then at several points, Trollope's narrator discusses party politics and resultant parliamentary elections with a tongue-in-cheek, even sarcastic tone, particularly when he labels the factions Giants and Gods, — George P. Landow]

Framley, Barsetshire, and the politics of Lord Lufton and Sowersby

Framley is in the eastern division of the county of Barsetshire, which, as all the world knows, is, politically speaking, as true blue a county as any in England. There have been backslidings even here, it is true; but then, in what county have there not been such backslidings? Where, in these pinchbeck days, can we hope to find the old agricultural virtue in all its purity? But, among those backsliders, I regret to say, that men now reckon Lord Lufton. Not that he is a violent Whig, or perhaps that he is a Whig at all. But he jeers and sneers at the old county doings; declares, when solicited on the subject, that, as far as he is concerned, Mr. Bright may sit for the county, if he pleases; and alleges, that being unfortunately a peer, he has no right even to interest himself in the question. All this is deeply regretted, for, in the old days, there was no portion of the county more decidedly true blue than that Framley district; and, indeed, up to the present day, the dowager is able to give an occasional helping hand.

Chaldicotes is the seat of Nathaniel Sowerby, Esq., who, at the moment supposed to be now present, is one of the members for the Western Division of Barsetshire. But this Western Division can boast none of the fine political attributes which grace its twin brother. It is decidedly Whig, and is almost governed in its politics by one or two great Whig families. [Ch. 2, “The Framnley Set and Chaldicotes”

The unnamed prime minister and his unstable grasp of power

The then prime minister, angry as many men were with him, had not been altogether unsuccessful. He had brought the Russian war to a close, which, if not glorious, was at any rate much more so than Englishmen at one time had ventured to hope. And he had had wonderful luck in that Indian mutiny. It is true that many of those even who voted with him would declare that this was in no way attributable to him. Great men had risen in India and done all that. Even his minister there, the governor whom he had sent out, was not allowed in those days any credit for the success which was achieved under his orders. There was great reason to doubt the man at the helm. But nevertheless he had been lucky. There is no merit in a public man like success!

But now, when the evil days were well nigh over, came the question whether he had not been too successful. When a man has nailed fortune to his chariot-wheels he is apt to travel about in rather a proud fashion. There are servants who think that their masters cannot do without them; and the public also may occasionally have some such servant. What if this too successful minister were one of them! [Chapter 8, Gatherum Castle]

The coming of parliamentary elections

[In the following passage I've added emphasis to individual words and phrases to mark Trollope's tone and use of the mock-heroic beloved of Pope and Swift. The second paragraph reaches is climax (or anti-climax) when the reader learns the comparatively minor issue that prompted elections.]

And now there were going to be wondrous doings in West Barsetshire, and men's minds were much disturbed. The fiat had gone forth from the high places, and the Queen had dissolved her faithful Commons. The giants, finding that they could effect little or nothing with the old House, had resolved to try what a new venture would do for them, and the hubbub of a general election was to pervade the country. This produced no inconsiderable irritation and annoyance, for the House was not as yet quite three years old; and members of Parliament, though they naturally feel a constitutional pleasure in meeting their friends and in pressing the hands of their constituents, are, nevertheless, so far akin to the lower order of humanity that they appreciate the danger of losing their seats; and the certainty of a considerable outlay in their endeavours to retain them is not agreeable to the legislative mind.

Never did the old family fury between the gods and giants rage higher than at the present moment. The giants declared that every turn which they attempted to take in their country's service had been thwarted by faction, in spite of those benign promises of assistance made to them only a few weeks since by their opponents; and the gods answered by asserting that they were driven to this opposition by the Bœotian fatuity of the giants. They had no doubt promised their aid, and were ready to give it to measures that were decently prudent; but not to a bill enabling government at its will to pension aged bishops! No; there must be some limit to their tolerance, and when such attempts as these were made that limit had been clearly passed. [Chapter 37, Mr. Sowersby without Company]

References

Trollope, Anthony. Framley Parsonage. Project Gutenberg E-text prepared by Andrew Turek and revised by Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D., and an anonymous Project Gutenberg volunteer.


Victorian Web Overview Authors Anthony Trollope

Last modified 26 September 2013