Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope
In the second volume of Trollope’s political series. Phineas Finn, the son of an Irish doctor, intended to become a barrister after studying law at Trinity College, but becomes an MP instead and moves into London political society—those in the Liberal party at least. He’s handsome, personable, and does real work. He just can’t afford to be an MP (no salary) except by letting his father support him. In Parliament, he overcomes his initial fear of speaking after a disastrous first attempt and then does his job so well that he’s tapped to be an undersecretary on the Treasury Bench. That means a salary and Phineas seems to be set.
It’s the time of the Reform Bills. The Liberals are pushing but want to move slowly and sensibly. One measure they’re not ready for is Irish tenant rights. Phineas takes a stand that’s different from his party and honor forces him to resign which means no salary and the necessity to go back to Ireland and make some money.
During his time in London he loses his seat twice and is helped to another by political friends. He falls in love with three rich women, marrying one of whom would solve his problems, but he believes in love, not in using a woman’s wealth for personal advantage.
It’s hard to describe what’s so great about Trollope. There are always some good characters, but never without faults that cause them serious problems and complicate the plots. There are some real bad ones too, generally people who aren’t very aware of themselves and their impact on society. Trollope understands political maneuvering—I liked this novel better the second time having read Roy Jenkins’ biography of Gladstone which gave me some background on the politics of the time.
As to Phineas Finn, I’ve read this series before and know he’ll be back.