Wednesday, 24 November 1999

Anthony Trollope: Phineas Finn (1869)

Edition: Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library
Review number: 397

Phineas Finn is one of Trollope's most enjoyable novels. It is here that the so called Palliser series of political novels really gets under way, Can You Forgive Her? being more of a prologue introducing some of the characters. (The overlap between the two novels is actually quite small, and it is not until later that characters from them really begin to interact.)

Finn is a young Irish barrister tempted from his legal career by the offer of a seat in Parliament. Without an income, this was a perilous course, for MPs were not paid at this time; only in office would a politician receive public money. Having accepted, he becomes involved in the reforms which took place in British politics in the mid nineteenth century, and is torn between his desire to support the abolition of abuses and the fact that this would result in his own seat disappearing. The tumultuous politics are mirrored in a confused private life, as Finn becomes involved with one woman after another.

Trollope's sentimentality and conventional morality are lesser obstacles in Phineas Finn than they are in some of his other novels - he even goes so far as to condone separation between married partners on grounds of incompatibility, contrary to the law of the time. The main characters are engaging and the political background fascinating.

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