22 JULY 1876, Page 14


" THE PRIME MINISTER."' Tilts is not one of Mr. Trollope's pleasanter novels. It contains some pleasant chapters, full of characters whom we have all met, of incidents so natural as almost to seem undeserving of record, and of acute and humorous observations ; but the book, as a whole, is tainted with the defect which characterises its author's more recent stories, the disposition to attribute to the majority of mankind an inherent vulgarity of thought. Lopez, the hero, is simply intolerable, not because he is a criminal, for his criminality is not made prominent, but because he is such a " cad," that it is nearly impossible the heroine should have loved him, and quite impossible that he should ever have been mistaken for a gentle- man. In his love-making and his jealousy, his efforts to bully, and his intercourse with his friends, he is always a " snob " of the lowest type, who excites no feeling but loathing of the most contemptuous and irritated kind. We should respect him more if he struck his wife, or went in for some bold swindle. We can hardly believe in such a man entering good society, or standing for Parliament, or winning any decent girl, much less one intended to be so charming and over- sensitive as Emily Wharton. He is not redeemed by any single trait,—for the love he is said to bear his wife never evinces itself in any act,—not even the poor one of capacity to endure the failure of his own schemes. He is a mere rogue, and a rogue of the most ordinary and feeble type, scarcely better worth analysis than the last "welsher" who complains that the mob have torn his coat to " ribbins." The reader is glad when he is dead; not merely from dislike to the man, but from relief that Mr. Trollope cannot employ so coarsely-conceived a character again, or weary us any longer with his sordid and ill-planned scheminga for cash, or position, or respect. We feel no sympathy with him even when he dies, for we perceive instinctively that he never would have killed himself, or killing himself, would have carefully avoided a moment when his death was such a convenience to all. The heroine is not much better. She is not vulgar, indeed, in speech or thought, but she must have had a trace of vulgarity in her to worship such a man ; she finds him out very easily, and her repentance for her blunder, when he has been removed from her path, is overstrained and silly. It is impossible to feel any interest in her woes or those of her father, who, after violent opposition to the match, permits her to marry without an inquiry into her lover's means; who, utterly distrusting this lover, believes all he tells him about a favourite son; and who, loving his daughter as the apple of his eye, is perpetually treading on her mental corns. He discusses her future with her good lover as if she were an acquaintance, and urges her marriage as if his own object were to be rid of a burden.

The Whartons and Lopez are, however, new characters, and the reader who dislikes them has lost nothing except the pleasure of believing that Mr. Trollope could create pleasant people for ever ; but he has chosen also to smirch old characters, people who have become a possession of the reading world, and whom he had no right to degrade in its estimation. Mr. Palliser has become Duke of Omnium and Prime Minister, and is in the process changed for the worse to a degree which could never have occurred. He was always over-sensitive and over-fidgetty, but he never before was over-bearing, unjust, and as far as he can be—for he retains a certain dignity of demeanour—vulgar. His entire bearing to- wards his leader in the House of Commons, Sir Orlando Drought, is vulgarly insolent. It is true, Sir Orlando provokes this treat- ment, for he is a man who, being an old politician and leader of the House, and full of ideas of his own importance, still con- descends to complain formally to the Premier that the Premier's wife does not ask him to dinner—a simply impossible incident—. and in all political interviews is a pretentious "snob;" but still, no Premier ever snubbed his first colleague as the Duke of Omnium snubs poor Sir Orlando, when he ventures to suggest that the Cabinet should have a policy in regard to county suffrage. There is bad drawing in the whole scene, and entire failure to per- ceive what relations are and are not possible among English poli- tical men. The Duke treats his own leader as if the latter were some led captain. The intention is, no doubt, to point out the incapacity of the victim, but the effect left on the reader is that no Premier could have been so insolent to a powerful colleague, and least of all the Premier whom he had known so • The Prime minister. By Anthony Trollops. 4 vols. London: ChspniAn and Hall. ISM.

many years as Plantagenet Palliser. The still more extreme scene in which the Duke—a man of sensitive refinement, and habitually forbearing—tells one of his wife's guests he is an impertinent, and orders him out of his house, because he had ventured to ask for support at an election, is almost an insult to the reader's social sense. The thing could not have occurred. Major Pounteney was presuming, and the Duke was sensitive ; but no

sensitive gentleman ever punished a bit of presumption, not in- tended as a presumption, with that ungentlemanly brutality. The real " Planty Pall " would have uttered some dry or humorous ex- cuse, avoided his guest for the term of his stay, and perhaps have

taken care that he never met him again ; but he would have left

the course suggested by Mr. Trollope to the class of titled roughs to which, less than any man, he himself belonged. His

sensitiveness, too, under the attacks of Quintus Slide, a man who is to Tom Towers what a beggar's chalking on the pavement is to a fine picture, must surely be exaggerated. Something of the aristocratic habit of mind must have existed even amidst his sen- sitiveness, to afford him some support ; he must have derived at least some little strength from his contempt. He is vulgar in his unreasoning and exaggerated dread. Lady Glencora's vulgarisation is perhaps more natural, for Mr. Trollope, whenever be has pre- sented her, has suggested that her charming qualities covered some faint tinge of vulgarity inherent in her nature ; but then her vulgarity was of the audacious, or, at the worst, of the slightly fast kind,—the vulgarity of a nature too truthful, too daring, too irreverent for an ancient society, not vulgarity of the pushing, perspiring kind. Lady Glencora in the Prime Minister pushes like any parvenue who wants to become a personage, courts objectionable people, flatters politicians she hates, and turns her house into a menagerie of members, under the belief that fed beasts are grateful to the hand that feeds them. Many a woman has played that part, but not Lady Glencora ; nor, supposing

Lady Glencora to have tried it, would she have been so ordinary, or so unsuccessful. She descends, in fact, to an impossible de-

gree, and perspires with effort in the vulgar crowd till she is utterly unrecognisable, or would be, were it not that in a few scenes, notably one between herself and the Nestor of the party, the Duke of St. Bungay, she is her old self once more. Her very mind has deteriorated, and her talk, even with Mrs. Finn, has lost much of the racy verve which formerly redeemed its vulgarity. This is, for example, not the speech which, in Can You Forgive Her 7 Mr. Trollope would have attributed to Lady Glencora :-

"' My dear,' said the Duchess angrily, 'you treat mo as though I were a child. Of course I know why he chooses that old man the Duke out of all the crowd. I don't suppose he [the Duke] does it from any stupid pride of rank. I know very well what set of ideas govern him. But that isn't the point. He has to reflect what others think of it, and to endeavour to do what will please them. There was I telling tarradiddles by the yard to that old oaf, Sir Orlando Drought, when a confidential word from Plantagenet would have had ton times more effect. And why can't he speak a word to the people's wives ? They wouldn't bite him. He has got to say a few words to you sometimes,—to whom it doesn't signify, my dear—'—' I don't know about that.'—' But he never speaks to another woman. He was here this evening for exactly forty minutes, and he didn't open his lips to a female creature. I watched him. How on earth am I to pull him through, if he goes on in that way ? '"

The motive has deteriorated, like the language, and Lady Glencora, whose specialty it was always to be herself, who was a great lady unconsciously, unable to plot or to dissimulate, is in the Prime Minister actuated by a thoroughly ill-bred ambition, in seeking which, again, she shows none of her instinctive knowledge of the world. She fights for place as if she had had no place before. She believes that she can make her husband's career easy by, as she says, "preparing food and lodging for half the Parliament and their wives," and prepares them like a cook. That is not the woman whom so many of Mr. Trollope's readers have admired, and not the woman into whom Lady Glencora would have degenerated. Her manners, as an American once said to us, were always " large in proportion " but till this time, the caste stamp was on her.

This vulgarisation of Mr. Trollope's old characters spoils the book, to our taste, nor can we see that it is redeemed by the political sketches. None of them are new, and though the reluctance of the Duke of Omnium to give up power is well painted, we gain no clear idea of the causes of his reluctance, the reasons for the growth of ambition in so unam-

.y bitious a mind. We should, in fact, be half-inclined to believe that Mr. Trollope's power itself had declined, that he was posi- tively unable to give us the sketches in which we have taken

such delight, were it not for the exquisite delicacy and skill with which he has painted the relations between the Duke of St. Bungay, the calm, reasonable old politician, whose party manage- ment is so influenced by his goodness of heart and his personal affections, and his sensitive and obstinate colleague. The analyses of his feeling for the Duke of Omnium, the entire respect for him as a man and faint contempt for him as a politician, the weariness of his scruples, yet honour for his scrupulosity, the deep affection for him personally, yet the sense that it will be a relief when he is no longer of use to the country, are all admirably portrayed,—so admirably, that when the story ends the Duke of St. Bungay, though so subordinate throughout it, is added to the gallery of portraits with which Mr. Trollope has enriched his readers' circle of acquaintance, and acknowledged as one of the men who are more real to us than half the people we shall meet to-morrow. He is as solid to the mind's eye as any man in Barchester Towers, and much more agreeable. This little summary

of him is Mr. Trollope's own, and as we read it, we grow a little impatient because he does such scant justice to the man whom he himself has created. Can there be a better evidence of fine art than that?— "Through his long life he had either been in office, or in such a position that men were sure that he would soon return to it. He had taken it, when it had come, willingly, and had always loft it without a regret. As a man cuts in and out at a whist-table, and enjoys both the game and the rest from the game, so had the Duke of St. Bungay been well pleased in either position. He was patriotic, but his patriotism did not disturb his digestion. He had been ambitious,—but moderately ambitious, and his ambition had been gratified. It never occurred to him to be unhappy because he or his party were beaten on a measure. When President of the Council, he could do his duty and enjoy London life. When in opposition, he could linger in Italy till May and devote his leisure to his trees and his bullocks. He was always esteemed, always self-satisfied, and always Duke of St. Bungay."