Places: Phineas Finn, the Irish Member

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: serial, 1867-1869; book, 1869

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Political realism

Time of work: Mid-nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*London

*London. Phineas Finn, the Irish MemberGreat Britain’s capital city encompasses the world that the personable young Irishman with political aspirations, Phineas Finn, is trying to reach, as well as the world he is trying to leave. While the characters inhabiting this novel’s London are fictional, the novel’s places are either real or based on real places. Even though he is a new member of Parliament, Phineas continues to live as he had as a barrister in training, in lodgings in London’s Great Marlborough Street and as a member of the Reform Club. As his career advances, he eventually moves to a more fashionable street and joins Brooks’ Club, both of which better suit his rising political and social profile.

London’s House of Commons and Foreign Office are the world to which Phineas strives. Both government centers are initially forbidding to him, but as his career develops, they become comfortable to him. His experience on a parliamentary committee investigating tinned beans represents how the time of effective politicians can be wasted. However, his time in the Foreign Office shows how budding politicians can be useful when he investigates a shipping question in Canada. Ultimately, he performs his greatest political act in the House, when he votes his conscience by supporting a bill that the rest of his party opposes. His support exiles him from both places, but permits him to leave believing in the importance of his principles.

The private London homes among which Finn circulates offer political and social opportunity. The Portman Square home of Whig cabinet member Lord Brentford, for example, represents the political and titled social establishment, to which Phineas is introduced by Lady Laura Standish, Brentford’s daughter. There Phineas meets the other cabinet members and rising Whig politicians. One evening, while departing from the Brentford home with Mr. Kennedy, Finn rescues Mr. Kennedy from an assassination attempt in Park Street, thereby securing his future political success. A small home on Park Lane, the exclusive street overlooking Hyde Park, belongs to the wealthy and well-connected widow Madame Max Goesler. The welcome he receives to her home represents the intimacy which Phineas has achieved within the highest political and social circles.


Loughlinter (LAKH-len-ter). Scottish estate of the wealthy member of Parliament Mr. Kennedy, to which Phineas is invited for a political retreat that the Whig party disguises as a leisure trip to the Scottish Highlands. Loughlinter is first presented as a beautiful and warm home; however, by the end of the novel it is viewed as a chilly and confined place, mirroring the disintegration of Lady Laura’s marriage to Mr. Kennedy. The Kennedy house in Grosvenor Square undergoes a similar but accelerated transformation, as Mr. Kennedy withdraws from political life and expects Lady Laura to do so as well.

Loughlinter represents both the social and political spheres into which Phineas is advancing, for he is spending his leisure as the traditional country gentry do and he is socializing with the major party figures. However, it also reveals how social dynamics reflect the political undercurrents. Lady Laura declines Phineas’s marriage proposal so that she can marry Mr. Kennedy, through whom she believes she will have greater political influence. Phineas then hides his disappointment so he will not jeopardize his standing with the party leadership.


Loughshane (LAKH-shayn). Phineas’s borough in County Clare, Ireland, where he is elected to his first and final terms in the British House of Commons. Loughshane is undistinguished in its own right but provides Phineas with a place from which to stand for political office and a place to return to when that office no longer exists. As a result of the Irish Reform Bill, which Phineas supports against the majority of his party, Loughshane is absorbed into another district. This eliminates his seat in Parliament–and thus another term in office–and prompts him to return home to marry his local sweetheart.


*Loughton (LAKH-ton). Pocket borough of Lord Brentford, located in Essex in southern England. At the time in which Phineas Finn is set, Loughton was still a rural area, although it was becoming more commercialized as a suburb of London. On Lady Laura’s recommendation, her father gives the borough to Phineas so he can be elected to a second term in Parliament. Because Finn is the recipient, it represents the favor Finn has won among the political establishment. It also represents the way pocket boroughs are dispensed without regard for a candidate’s actual views, so long as he has (and maintains) the favor of the peers who control them.

BibliographyHalperin, John. Trollope and Politics: A Study of the Pallisers and Others. London: Macmillan, 1977. Views Trollope’s political novels as a direct reflection of political activities of the day.McMaster, Juliet. Trollope’s Palliser Novels: Theme and Pattern. London: Macmillan, 1978. A consideration of Trollope’s political novels from an aesthetic, nonpolitical point of view.Pollard, Arthur. Trollope’s Political Novels. Hull, England: University of Hull, 1968. Argues that the effectiveness of Trollope’s political novels derives from the author’s own engagement in politics.Sadleir, Michael. Trollope: A Commentary. 3d ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1961. A helpful biography on Trollope that focuses on the events of the author’s life and political career as reflected in his novels.Trollope, Anthony. Phineas Finn: The Irish Member. Edited with an introduction by Jacques Berthoud. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. Includes a good introduction to Phineas Finn, which elucidates the novel’s political and cultural background.
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