I have now read all six books of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser Series. I thought that the books ranged from very good to outstanding and that all were worth reading. My favorite of the series was Can You Forgive Her?
Though not the focus of all the novels, the Palliser Books are more or less centered upon Plantagenet Palliser. There is so much to be said about his character. As I have written in my other posts on these books, the Duke is outwardly stiff and seemingly cold, yet he displays inner depth, warm emotions and integrity that show up at unexpected moments. His relationship with his wife, Lady Glencora, is complex and fascinating to read about. Early in the series, at a low point in their relationship, Glencora observed,
“We were told to marry each other and did it. When could he have learned to love me? … he requires no loving, either to take it or to give it. I wish it were so with me."
Readers should not be fooled by the above quotation. Much of the remainder of the series involves the Duke showing that the above is not true. He did come to love his wife and yearn for reciprocal affection, all the while remaining outwardly stoic and very controlled, almost ridiculously so.
There are some themes that run through most of The Palliser books. There is a lot of political philosophy in these novels. Politics is often corrupt, and politicians are often self-serving. However, a minority of honest and dedicated public servants keeps a nation strong and on an ethical course. These honest public servants spring up among both conservatives and liberals, but tend to be moderates. Phineas Finn is a good example of this noble public servant. He is a liberal who nonetheless rejects the more radical legislation. He is also honest and is willing to buck his party for what he thinks is right.
Themes of marriage and romantic relationships are displayed throughout the series. The conflict between wealth, class and true love is everywhere. Sometimes, motivated by class and money issues, relatives successfully destroy relationships between mismatched couples, but sometimes the couples hold out. In typical Trollopean complexity, sometimes the relatives are right and one half of the couple is of questionable character. This was likely the case with Lady Glencora’s first engagement with Burgo Fitzgerald, as well as when relatives unsuccessfully tried to stop the marriage between Emily Wharton and Ferdinand Lopez. Other times, the relatives are wrong, as was the case with several couples in The Duke’s Children.
As I have written before, in some ways The Chronicles of Barsetshire and The Palliser books are one big series. There are crossover characters. In fact, The Palliser Series’ central figure, Plantagenet Palliser, was first introduced in The Chronicles of Barsetshire. With that, the two series have different focuses. Where The Chronicles of Barsetshire centered on religious figures and middle society, The Palliser Series centers on politicians and is more upper class centric.
The Chronicles of Barsetshire was written before The Palliser Series and seems less cynical and world weary. There are villains and people who act immorally in the earlier series, but they seem less vicious and inhumane. For instance, Ferdinand Lopez, a classic narcissistic abuser, is highlighted in book five of Palliser, The Prime Minister. There is nothing funny about him. In contrast, the maleficent characters in The Chronicles of Barsetshire, such as Mrs. Proudie, are often portrayed comically and are given some humanity. Links to my commentary on all of the books of both series can be found below.
In a perfect world, I would recommend reading all of the books of both series in order. However, Can You Forgive Her?, Phineas Finn and The Eustace Diamonds can be read as standalones.
In the end, I liked this series a little less than The Chronicles of Barsetshire. The earlier series, for the reasons mentioned above, seemed to be little warmer. Some of the politics in The Palliser Series also became a little tedious, especially in the books that focused on Phineas Finn. However, I am quibbling. The Palliser Books are filled with Trollope’s keen insights on people and relationships. They exude subtlety and nuance. They are often funny and always entertaining. The political philosophy here is also worth pondering. This is a fine series of books that I am glad to have read.
My commentary on Can You Forgive Her? is here.
My commentary on Phineas Finn is here.
My commentary on The Eustace Diamonds is here.
My commentary on The Eustace Diamonds and Anti- Semitism is here.
My commentary on Phineas Redux is here.
My commentary on The Prime Minister is here
My commentary on The Duke’s Children is here.
My commentary on The Warden is here.
My commentary on Barchester Towers is here.
My commentary on Doctor Thorne is here.
My commentary on The Small House at Allington is here.
My commentary on the Last Chronicle of Barset is here.
My commentary on the relationship of Lily Dale and Johnny Eames in The Chronicles of Barsetshire series is here.
My general commentary on The Chronicles of Barsetshire is here.
My commentary on Trollope’s unusual Point of View is here.
After reading your previous Trollope reviews I picked up a copy of 'The Way We Live Now' a few days ago.... He's not an author that I had been focusing on so thanks for pointing me in his direction.
Hi CyberKitten - I have not read The Way We Live Now. It is a standalone book. I have that it was a great one and I want to read it.
That's awesome that you read all of the Palliser Series and posted some great discussions as well. Can You Forgive Her sounds really good actually. The relationship between the Duke and Lady Glencora sounds interesting.
Wow, all of those reviews :) that's a lot! I haven't read a single one of these, but I would like to come back to my love of the Victorian (and older) novel.
excellent summation of both series... i've read the Barchester, but not the Paliser one... summoning up the blood, rereading "True Grit", i'm trying to come to grips with tackling the latter... in the meanwhile, tx so much for bracing up my and others collective interest...
Holy cow, this is an amazing round up!
I have not read a single Trollope, but I am totally impressed by this post. It's something to bookmark. <3
Hi Naida - It feels like I accomplished something. Can You Forgive Her? was such such a good overall book.
Hi Evelina - I think that if you like Victorian Novels then you would like Triollope.
Thanks Mudpuddle. I think that you would Palliser Books.
Thanks Laurie, looking back. It took me four years to get through both series.
Congrats on finishing the two series. Quite an accomplishment. I think the book about Phineas Finn would interest me. I'm a newbie to Trollope.
I am impressed that you read these sets by Trollope. I am not very familiar with Trollope since I've only read a couple of his novels. I really need to catch up with you because I think he is a worthwhile novelist. Do you have another author who has written a series in mind to read
Hi Sharon - I think that you would like Trollope. I think that I have never read any other series in this genre. I have not read the Poldark series, but it looks to be somewhat similar and a lot of people really like it.
Thanks Susan. I thought that the two Phineas Finn books were very good. They also were very political. They can be read as standalone but only make sense if they are read in order. They are Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux.
Congratulations Brian on completing the Barchester Chronicles and Paliser series and the excellent commentary you have written on these novels really heightens the experience of reading the books. I am glad that you have a link to all of your Trollope reviews and I look forward to you finding another series that you can review and we can read about.
Thanks Kathy. Series are fairly rare in this genre. I am planning to read some science fiction over the next few months. As series are common in that genre I may give one or two a try.
Congratulations on completing these two series of novels. That is a noteworthy achievement. Do you feel that you have gained a more complete image of Victorian British society from reading both of these series?
Congratulations on reading all six books in The Palliser series! It sounds like an outstanding series, with well-drawn, complex characters. Excellent commentary, Brian Joseph! I hope to read something by Anthony Trollope in the future.
Thanks James. You raise a good question. I feel that Trollope has emersed me in The Victorian world. After reading these books it is almost like I was there. Of course, this is Trollope’s version of the world.
Thanks Suko. I think that you would like Tiollope.
It's wonderful that you've read all of these and can step back and appreciate the magnitude of the world Trollope created. Thank you for the recommendations too of which to start with if we don't read the whole series. From your reviews, they sound excellent and enriching.
Hi Hila - I thought that the entire series of books warranted an entire overview. There were certain themes floating around throughout.
thank you for sharing your panorama look over the Palliser series Brain!
themes running through books are appealing as each one can be relate to practical life easily.
according to your commentary either i will prefer to read one with more warmth and sensitivity as i love to read more and more about human psychology and his way of facing the odds of life in every aspect of living .
i am going to read your review about "can you forgive her" as i think i m have missed that one .
Thank you for insightful writings ,they grow my passion for reading
Thanks Baili - I think that you would like Can You Forgive Her? But I think that you would prefer The Chronicles of Barsetshire series to this one. It is a little warmer.
AWESOME commentary as usual, Brian!! :) :)
CONGRATS on finishing the Palliser series!! Gee, I really do need to get started on Trollope myself. I have seen one or two of his books at my local B&N. Of course, they're also available on Amazon.
I really like your detailed contrast of this series with The Chronicles of Barsetshire. It's interesting that the later series was more "cynical and world weary", as you put it. I would imagine that this would have had something to do with the political corruption of the time. And this brings up an interesting question, too: did Trollope feel that there was more corruption in the political system of his time, than in the religious institutions of the same time period? That might be one reason for the warmer feeling you got from reading the earlier series.
I also like your point about how arranged marriages, as well as interference from relatives, seemed to work in some cases, and in others not. Life is SO complex! Lol. But I do think that preventing two people from marrying simply because one of the people in a couple is not a member of "the upper crust", or isn't wealthy enough, is a very shallow reason for doing this type of thing. And that was very common at the time. Heck, this went on well into the 20th century! On the other hand, preventing two people from marrying because of the dubious moral character of one of them is definitely understandable, and even noble.
What I gather about Trollope's characters, from your very insightful posts, is that they are not cardboard cutouts, but real, living, complex people, which is what we find in real life. This means, of course, that Trollope had some talent for psychology, in a century in which that field was not even in its infancy. The same can be said for Austen, the Brontë sisters, Hardy, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Conrad, and any number of other great writers whose works are revered as classics. And this is the main reason their works are thus revered. They are universal in scope, and valid for all times. I REALLY need to get back to reading MORE classics......
Thanks for your valuable and interesting insights, Brian!! Hope you're having a great Monday!! <3 :)
Wow, awesome. This sounds like a good series.
Thanks for commenting Love Affair With Food. For those who like Victorian Novels. This series is a great read.
I think that you would like Trollope. I do suspect that Trollope saw politicians in a harsher light then Church leaders. He also may have seen urban life in a more cynical way. He was also a little older when he wrote this series and that may have influenced him.
His characters were so complex. I love all the writers that you mentioned for that very reason. I also have thought that these writers were great psychologists.
It seems unimaginable that relatives would have such an influence upon marriage decisions.
Have a great week!
I'm going to contradict my previois comment - I also feel that can You Forgive Her could be read as a standalone. I think so, because I notced, people often do. It seems one of his most famous. I had no idea that there are characters that even cross over from one series to the other. That's interesting. What an intricate canvas he created.
Hi Caroline- It is funny, I did not read your comment here when I suggested Can You Forgive Her?, as a response to your other comment. I thought that it really was a great book.
It is really neat how all these books fit together.
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