Load of Trollope

July 28, 1995

Politics may have changed since Anthony Trollope chronicled the doings of the nation's elite in his Pallisers sequence of novels, but the names appear to be much the same. Ged Martin of Edinburgh University, indulging a taste for literary detective work, reckons to have fingered the original for Phineas Finn, eponymous hero of one of the earlier books in the series.

His suspect is one John Ball, an Irish politico popularly known as "Racket Ball" for the rapidity with which he moved from place to place in search of a seat. Dr Martin notes that John Ball is the namesake of our current Prime Minister -had he but chosen the other half of the family double-barrel - while the other serious claimant to be Finn's original is a chap named Chichester-Fortescue who married a Lady Waldegrave. Trollope, he points out, married a woman named Heseltine.

Not so much Victorian values as Victorian names - if Dr Martin can find a Portillo or a Rifkind somewhere in the sequence, his theory will be pretty unassailable.

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