Reading Groups

Anthony Trollope’s Phineas Finn


Led by: N. John Hall


Time: 6 - 7:30pm


Meets: Every second Tuesday of the month,
Four sessions 


Dates: Sept. 12, Oct.10, Nov. 14, Dec. 12


Sign up:

Members & Trollope Society: $125

Nonmembers: $140



These are particularly political times in the U.S. and elsewhere. Such also were the late 1860s in Great Britain, the time of the Second Reform Bill. And so it is fitting that we read Trollope’s Phineas Finn at this time—because while engrossing us in fascinating love romances, Trollope has much to teach us about how politics worked in Victorian England and, as it happens, how they work in our own day. (He wrote the book to reflect the heated and drawn-out House of Commons debates over the bill that would more than double the numbers of electors of Parliament, redistribute many seats, and abolish most of the “pocket boroughs” in the land.) Rightly has this novel been proclaimed simply the best “political” novel of the 19th Century. Former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan claimed that Trollope “got it just right”—with his emphasis on the question of loyalty to party vs personal conviction and in stressing the private lives of political operatives, most especially the influence of the wives of politicians—with their dinners and garden parties and country weekends where the great issues of the day were discussed, schemed, and  often determined. The novel sparkles with at least four of the liveliest and cleverest women in all of English fiction. It’s all here—romance, politics, suspense, comedy, a touch of the tragic.


Recommended edition: Oxford University Press World's Classics, ed. Jacques Berthoud.


For the first meeting participants should have read the first 19 chapters.


N. John Hall ("Jack") is distinguished Professor Emeritus, BCC and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He has been twice the director of NEH Summer Seminars for College Teachers and twice a Guggenheim Fellow. His many publications include The Trollope Critics (ed); Trollope and His Illustrators; the two-volume Letters of Anthony Trollope; and Trollope: A Biography. This last earned Hall a front-page review in the New York Times Book Review and occasioned the (London) Times calling him "arguably the world's leading authority on Anthony Trollope."