The Top of the Greasy Pole: Prime Ministers and The Prime Minister

  • John Halperin


After the failure of The Way We Live Now — which remained out of print from 1879 until 1941, so violent was the reaction against it — Trollope turned back to more familiar, and to what he hoped would be more congenial, scenes. But instead the result was more controversy; rather than restoring him to the good graces of the reading public, The Prime Minister (published serially November 1875–June 1876 and in four volumes in May 1876) received an explosive reception and gave Trollope the worst press he had ever had for a major work. As in the case of The Way We Live Now, however, modern opinion has reversed that of the 1870s; The Prime Minister has become a favorite subject (if not always a favorite novel) of the Pallisers’ modern critics and one of Trollope’ s most written-about works. True, only two decades ago it could be said of The Prime Minister that, as Trollope’s contemporaries had refused to read the novel, so in recent years it had been read “only by those few enthusiasts who will settle for nothing less than all of Trollope.”1 But every major study of Trollope published in, the last ten years has devoted considerable space to The Prime Minister; it has become, like The Last Chronicle of Barset, The Eustace Diamonds, and The Way We Live Now, one of those novels critics feel they cannot pass over — it is too rich, too full, too interesting.


Prime Minister Thick Skin Political Coalition Political Scene Partisan Politics 
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  1. 12.
    The information in this paragraph is taken in part from Philip Guedalla, Bonnet and Shawl (London, 1928), p. 62;Google Scholar
  2. S. Walpole, The Life of Lord John Russell (London, 1892), II, 481;Google Scholar
  3. Bartrum, “Lady Stanley,” passim., especially 133; and Mabell, Countess of Airlie, Lady Palmerston and Her Times (London, 1922), II, 43.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    In connection with the ideas cited in this paragraph, see Russell’s Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution (London, 1823), p. 12, and Trollope’s North America, p. 55. Again, much of my information here is derived from Kenney, passim., especially 284–5.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    Quoted by Stuart J. Reid in Lord John Russell (London, 1895), p. 205.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Quoted by Desmond McCarthy and Agatha Russell in Lady John Russell: A Memoir (London, 1911), p. 72.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    See the Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed.); The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1872–1914, Vol. I (London, 1951), pp. 29–30; and The Amberley Papers, ed. Bertrand and Patricia Russell (London, 1938), I, 18. Lady Stanley’s announcement is recollected by Bertrand Russell.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    John R. Vincent, The Formation of the Liberal Party 1857–1868 (London, 1966), p. 22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Halperin 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Halperin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaUSA

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