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Anthony Trollope

 

Anthony Trollope

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anthony Trollope ( 24 April 1815 – 6 December 1882 ) became one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Some of Trollope's best-loved works, known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around the imaginary county of Barsetshire; he also wrote penetrating novels on political, social, gender issues and conflicts of his day.

Trollope has always been a popular novelist. Noted fans have included Sir Alec Guinness (who never travelled without a Trollope novel), former British Prime Ministers Harold Macmillan and Sir John Major, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, American novelists Sue Grafton and Dominick Dunne and soap opera writer Harding Lemay. Trollope's literary reputation dipped somewhat during the last years of his life, but he regained the esteem of critics by the mid-twentieth century.

"Of all novelists in any country, Trollope best understands the role of money. Compared with him even Balzac is a romantic." — W. H. Auden

Biography
Anthony Trollope's father, Thomas Anthony Trollope, worked as a barrister. Thomas Trollope, though a clever and well-educated man and a Fellow of New College, Oxford, failed at the bar due to his bad temper. In addition, his ventures into farming proved unprofitable and he lost an expected inheritance when an elderly uncle married and had children. Nonetheless, he came from a genteel background, with connections to the landed gentry, and so wished to educate his sons as gentlemen and for them to attend Oxford or Cambridge. The disparity between his family's social background and its poverty would be the cause of much misery to Anthony Trollope during his boyhood.

Born in London, Anthony attended Harrow School as a day-boy for three years from the age of seven, as his father's farm lay in that neighbourhood. After a spell at a private school, he followed his father and two older brothers to Winchester College, where he remained for three years. He returned to Harrow as a day-boy to reduce the cost of his education. Trollope had some very miserable experiences at these two public schools. They ranked as two of the most élite schools in England, but Trollope had no money and no friends, and was bullied a great deal. At the age of twelve, he fantasized about suicide. However, he also daydreamed, constructing elaborate imaginary worlds.

In 1827, his mother Frances Trollope moved to America with Trollope's three younger siblings, where she opened a bazaar in Cincinnati, which proved unsuccessful. Thomas Trollope joined them for a short time before returning to the farm at Harrow, but Anthony stayed in England throughout. His mother returned in 1831 and rapidly made a name for herself as a writer, soon earning a good income. His father's affairs, however, went from bad to worse. He gave up his legal practice entirely and failed to make enough income from farming to pay rents to his landlord Lord Northwick. In 1834 he fled to Belgium to avoid arrest for debt. The whole family moved to a house near Bruges, where they lived entirely on Frances's earnings. In 1835, Thomas Trollope died.

While living in Belgium, Anthony worked as a Classics usher (a junior or assistant teacher) in a school with a view to learning French and German, so that he could take up a promised commission in an Austrian cavalry regiment, which had to be cut short at six weeks. He then obtained a position as a civil servant in the British Post Office through one of his mother's family connections, and returned to London on his own. This provided a respectable, gentlemanly occupation, but not a well-paid one.

Time in Ireland

Rose Heseltine TrollopeTrollope lived in boarding houses and remained socially awkward; he referred to this as his "hobbledehoyhood". He made little progress in his career until the Post Office sent him to Ireland in 1841. He married an Englishwoman named Rose Heseltine in 1844. They lived in Ireland until 1859, when they moved back to England.

Despite the calamity of the Great Famine in Ireland, Trollope wrote of his time in Ireland in his own autobiography:

"It was altogether a very jolly life that I led in Ireland. The Irish people did not murder me, nor did they even break my head. I soon found them to be good-humoured, clever - the working classes very much more intelligent than those of England - economical and hospitable."

Pillar boxHis professional role as a post-office surveyor brought him into contact with Irish people. Trollope began writing on the numerous long train trips around Ireland he had to take to carry out his postal duties. Setting very firm goals about how much he would write each day, he eventually became one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote his earliest novels while working as a Post Office inspector, occasionally dipping into the "lost-letter" box for ideas.

Significantly, many of his earliest novels have Ireland as their setting — natural enough given his background, but unlikely to enjoy warm critical reception, given the contemporary English attitudes towards Ireland. It has been pointed out by critics that Trollope's view of Ireland separates him from many of the other Victorian novelists. Some critics claim that Ireland did not influence Trollope as much as his experience in England, and that the society in Ireland harmed him as a writer, especially since Ireland was experiencing the famine during his time there.Such critics were dismissed as holding bigoted opinions against Ireland and did not reflect Trollope's true attachment to the country.

Trollope wrote four novels about Ireland. Two were written during the famine, while the third deals with the famine as a theme (The Macdermots of Ballycloran, The Landleaguers and Castle Richmond respectively). The Macdermots of Ballycloran was written while he was staying in the village of Drumsna, County Leitrim. A fourth, The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848) is a humorous comparison of the romantic pursuits of the landed gentry (Francis O'Kelly, Lord Ballindine) and his Catholic tenant (Martin Kelly). Two short stories deal with Ireland ("The O'Conors of Castle Conor, County Mayo"] and "Father Giles of Ballymoy" ). It has been argued by some critics that these works seek to unify an Irish and British identity, instead of viewing the two as distinct. Even as an Englishman in Ireland, Trollope was still able to attain what he saw as essential to being an "Irish writer": possessed, obsessed, and "mauled" by Ireland.

The reception of the Irish works left much to be desired. Henry Colburn wrote to Trollope, "It is evident that readers do not like novels on Irish subjects as well as on others". In particular, magazines such as New Monthly Magazine, which wrote reviews that attacked the Irish for their actions during the famine, were representative of the dismissal by English readers to any work written about the Irish.

Trollope himself wrote, about Phineas Finn's identity as an Irishman:

"There was nothing to be gained by the peculiarity, and there was an added difficulty in obtaining sympathy and affection for a politician belonging to a nationality whose politics are not respected in England. But in spite of this Phineas succeeded."

Return to England
By the mid-1860s, Trollope had reached a fairly senior position within the Post Office hierarchy. Postal history credits him with introducing the pillar box (the ubiquitous bright red mail-box) in the United Kingdom. He had by this time also started to earn a substantial income from his novels. He had overcome the awkwardness of his youth, made good friends in literary circles, and hunted enthusiastically.

He left the Post Office in 1867 to run for Parliament as a Liberal candidate in 1868. After he lost, he concentrated entirely on his literary career. While continuing to produce novels rapidly, he also edited the St Paul's Magazine, which published several of his novels in serial form.

His first major success came with The Warden (1855) — the first of six novels set in the fictional county of "Barsetshire" (often collectively referred to as the Chronicles of Barsetshire), usually dealing with the clergy. The comic masterpiece Barchester Towers (1857) has probably become the best-known of these. Trollope's other major series, the Palliser novels, concerned itself with politics, with the wealthy, industrious Plantagenet Palliser and his delightfully spontaneous, even richer wife Lady Glencora usually featuring prominently (although, as with the Barsetshire series, many other well-developed characters populated each novel).


Grave in Kensal Green Cemetery, LondonTrollope's popularity and critical success diminished in his later years, but he continued to write prolifically, and some of his later novels have acquired a good reputation. In particular, critics generally acknowledge the sweeping satire The Way We Live Now (1875) as his masterpiece. In all, Trollope wrote forty-seven novels, as well as dozens of short stories and a few books on travel.

Anthony Trollope died in London in 1882. His grave stands in Kensal Green Cemetery, near that of his contemporary Wilkie Collins. C. P. Snow wrote a biography of Trollope, published in 1975, called Trollope: His Life and Art.

Other travels
In 1871, Trollope made his first trip to Australia, arriving in Melbourne in July, with his wife and their cook. The trip was made to visit their younger son, Frederic, who was a sheep farmer near Grenfell, New South Wales. He wrote his novel Lady Anna during the voyage. He spent a year and two days "descending mines, mixing with shearers and rouseabouts, riding his horse into the loneliness of the bush, touring lunatic asylums, and exploring coast and plain by steamer and stagecoach". Despite this, the Australian press was uneasy, fearing he would misrepresent Australia in his writings. This fear was based on rather negative writings about America by his mother, Fanny, and by Charles Dickens. On his return Trollope published a book, Australia and New Zealand (1873). It contained both positive and negative comments. On the positive side included finding a comparative absence of class consciousness, and praising aspects of Perth, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney. However, he was negative about Adelaide's river, the towns of Bendigo and Ballarat, and the Aboriginal people. What most angered the Australian papers, though, were his comments "accusing Australians of being braggarts".

When Trollope returned to Australia in 1875 to help his son close down his failed farming business, he found that the resentment created by his bragging accusations remained and, when he died in 1882, Australian papers still "smouldered". In their obituaries they referred yet again to his accusations, and refused to fully praise or recognise his achievements.

Reputation
After his death, Trollope's Autobiography appeared. Trollope's downfall in the eyes of the critics stemmed largely from this volume. Even during his writing career, reviewers tended increasingly to shake their heads over his prodigious output (the same complaint was targeted at Charles Dickens), but when Trollope revealed that he strictly adhered to a daily writing quota, he confirmed his critics' worst fears. The Muse, in their view, might prove immensely prolific, but she would never ever follow a schedule. (Interestingly, no-one decried Gustave Flaubert for diligence, though he too worked on a schedule-scheme similar to Trollope's.) Furthermore, Trollope admitted that he wrote for money; at the same time he called the disdain of money false and foolish. The Muse, claimed the critics, should not be aware of money.

Julian Hawthorne, an American writer, critic and friend of Trollope, while praising him as a man, calling him "a credit to England and to human nature, and ...[deserving] to be numbered among the darlings of mankind," at the same time says that "he has done great harm to English fictitious literature by his novels" ("The Maker of Many Books," Confessions and Criticisms).

Henry James also expressed mixed opinions of Trollope. The young James wrote some scathing reviews of Trollope's novels (The Belton Estate, for instance, he called "a stupid book, without a single thought or idea in it ... a sort of mental pabulum"). He also made it clear that he disliked Trollope's narrative method; Trollope's cheerful interpolations into his novels about how his storylines could take any twist their author wanted did not appeal to James' sense of artistic integrity. However, James thoroughly appreciated Trollope's attention to realistic detail, as he wrote in an essay shortly after the novelist's death:

"His [Trollope's] great, his incontestable merit, was a complete appreciation of the usual...he felt all daily and immediate things as well as saw them; felt them in a simple, direct, salubrious way, with their sadness, their gladness, their charm, their comicality, all their obvious and measurable meanings...Trollope will remain one of the most trustworthy, though not one of the most eloquent of writers who have helped the heart of man to know itself...A race is fortunate when it has a good deal of the sort of imagination — of imaginative feeling — that had fallen to the share of Anthony Trollope; and in this possession our English race is not poor."

James disliked Trollope's breaking the fourth wall in addressing readers directly. However, Trollope may have had some influence on James's own work; the earlier novelist's treatment of family tensions, especially between fathers and daughters, may resonate in some of James' novels. For instance, Alice Vavasor and her selfish father in the first of the so-called Palliser novels, Can You Forgive Her?, may pre-figure Kate Croy and her own insufferable father, Lionel, in The Wings of the Dove.

Writers such as Thackeray, Eliot and Collins admired and befriended Trollope, and George Eliot noted that she could not have embarked on so ambitious a project as Middlemarch without the precedent set by Trollope in his own novels of the fictional — yet thoroughly alive — county of Barsetshire.

As trends in the world of the novel moved increasingly towards subjectivity and artistic experimentation, Trollope's standing with critics suffered. In the 1940s, Trollopians made attempts to resurrect his reputation; he enjoyed a critical Renaissance in the 1960s, and again in the 1990s. Some critics today have a particular interest in Trollope's portrayal of women — he caused remark even in his own day for his remarkable insight and sensitivity to the inner conflicts caused by the position of women in Victorian society. Less compelling however, is the anti-semitism which appears in some of his work (for instance, in The Eustace Diamonds, where he refers to the character of Mr Emilius as a "nasty, greasy, lying, squinting Jew preacher"), and which exceeds anything to be found, say, in either Dickens or James.

A Trollope Society flourishes in the United Kingdom, as does its sister society in the United States.

 

 


BARCHESTER TOWERS
 

Type of work: Novel
Author: Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
Type of plot: Social satire
Time of plot: Mid-nineteenth century
Locale: "Barchester," an English cathedral town
First published: 1857
 

This sequel to The Warden is probably the best known of the novels in the Barsetshire series. Barchester Towers is a story of clerical intrigue centering on the power struggle between an obnoxious and imperious bishop's wife and her scheming, sneaking chaplain. Trollope's fine irony of tone, and his delightful characterizations create a light and purely entertaining novel unburdened by social comment or philosophical questioning.
 

Principal Characters

Eleanor Bold, younger daughter of the Reverend Sep-timius Harding, the "Warden," and wealthy widow of John Bold. She lives with her baby son and her sister-in-law, Mary Bold. Much of the novel revolves around Eleanor's choice of one of her three suitors: Mr. Slope, Bertie Stanhope, and Mr. Arabin. Throughout a large portion of the novel, most of her ecclesiastical friends and relatives assume that she will choose Mr. Slope.
Dr. Proudie, the clergyman who becomes Bishop of Barchester after the death of Archdeacon Grantly's father. Dr. Proudie is a vain but weak man, dominated by his wife and by Mr. Slope. Although all Barchester expects him to offer the wardenship of Hiram's Hospital to Mr. Harding, Dr. Proudie allows Mr. Slope's chicanery to gain the appointment for Mr. Quiverful.
Mrs. Proudie, the aggressive and domineering wife of the Bishop of Barchester. She attempts to control Barchester by championing evangelical and Low Church causes, awarding church patronage, and manipulating people through the offices of Mr. Slope. She antagonizes the established ecclesiastical society in Barchester.
The Reverend Obadiah Slope, the Bishop's chaplain. An evangelical clergyman, Mr. Slope antagonizes most of the chapter with his initial fiery sermon at Barchester Cathedral. He first acts as Mrs. Proudie's agent, but, after he supports the claims of Mr. Harding in an attempt to gain favor with Eleanor Bold, Mrs. Proudie scorns him. Unable to win favor or Eleanor or the post of Dean of Barchester, he returns to London.
The Reverend Theophilus Grantly, the Archdeacon of Barchester and rector of Plumstead Episcopi. He strongly supports the claims of Harding, his father-in-law, to be reinstated as warden of Hiram's Hospital. When the nearby living of St. Ewold's becomes vacant, he goes to Oxford to obtain the post for the Reverend Francis Arabin. He also fears that his sister-in-law, Eleanor Bold, will marry the Low Churchman, Slope.
Susan Grantly, wife of Archdeacon Grantly and the elder daughter of Mr. Harding. She generally follows her husband, but attempts to mitigate his anger at her sister.
The Rev. Septimus Harding, former Warden of Hiram's Hospital. He desires his former charge but is denied it through the machinations of Mr. Slope and Mrs. Proudie, who make his appointment conditional on his assuming extra duties and administering evangelical Sunday Schools. Later he is offered the Deanship of Barchester Cathedral, but he refuses the post because of his advanced age.
The Reverend Francis Arabin, a scholarly High Church clergyman from Oxford who is brought into the living at St. Ewold's to strengthen forces against Bishop Proudie and Mr. Slope. He eventually becomes Dean of Barchester and marries Eleanor Bold.
Dr. Vesey Stanhope, holder of several livings in the Barchester area who has spent the preceding twelve years in Italy. He is summoned to Barchester by Dr. Proudie, through Slope, but has little interest in the political or ecclesiastical affairs of Barchester.
Mrs. Stanhope, his wife, interested chiefly in dress.
Charlotte Stanhope, the oldest daughter of the Stanhopes, who manages the house and the rest of the family with efficiency and intelligence. She, a friend of Eleanor Bold, urges her brother to propose to Eleanor.
La Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni, nee Stanhope, the great beauty of the Stanhope family who has been crippled in a short, disastrous marriage to a brutal Italian, Although confined to her sofa, she attracts men easily. One of her victims is Mr. Slope, whose hypocrisy she exposes, but she is sufficiently generous to encourage Eleanor to marry Mr. Arabin.
Ethelbert Stanhope (Bertie), the amiable son of the Stanhopes, who has dabbled in law, art, and numerous religions. His family wishes to settle him with Eleanor and her money, but Bertie's proposal fails and he is sent back to Carrara by his father.
Mr. Quiverful, the genial clergyman and father who is persuaded to accept the preferment at Hiram's Hospital in addition to his living at Puddingdale.
Mrs. Letty Quiverful, his wife and the mother of fourteen children, who begs Mrs. Proudie to bestow the preferment at Hiram's Hospital on her husband.
Miss Thome of Ullathorne, the member of an old family at St. Ewold's who gives a large party at which both Mr. Slope and Bertie Stanhope propose to Eleanor. Miss Thorne, however, favors Arabin and invites both Arabin and Eleanor to stay until the engagement is settled.
Wilfred Thorne, Esq., of Ullathorne, the younger brother of Miss Thorne, a bachelor, and an authority on tradition and genealogy.
Dr. Gwynne, Master of Lazarus College, Oxford, the man instrumental in securing the Deanship for Mr. Arabin.
Olivia Proudie, the daughter of the Proudies, briefly thought to be engaged to Mr. Slope.
Mary Bold, the sister-in-law and confidante of Eleanor Bold.
Johnny Bold, the infant son of Eleanor and the late John Bold.
Griselda Grantly, the pretty daughter of Archdeacon Grantly.
Dr. Trefoil, Dean of Barchester Cathedral, who dies of apoplexy.
The Bishop of Barchester, the father of Archdeacon Grantly. He dies at the very beginning of the novel.
Dr. Omicron Pi, a famous doctor from London.

 

The Story

After the death of Bishop Grantly of Barchester, there was much conjecture as to his successor. Bishop Grant-ly's son, the Archdeacon, was ambitious for the position, but his hopes were deflated when Dr. Proudie was appointed to the diocese. Bishop Proudie's wife was of Low Church propensities. She was also a woman of extremely aggressive nature, who kept the bishop's chaplain, Obadiah Slope, in constant row.
On the first Sunday of the new bishop's regime, Mr. Slope was the preacher in the cathedral. His sermon was concerned with the importance of simplicity in the church service and the consequent omission of chanting, intoning, and formal ritual. The cathedral chapter was aghast. For generations, the services in the cathedral had been chanted; the chapter could see no reason for discontinuing the practice. In counsel, it was decreed that Mr. Slope never be permitted to preach from the cathedral pulpit again.
The Reverend Septimus Harding, who had resigned because of conscientious scruples from his position as warden of Hiram's Hospital, now had several reasons to believe that he would be returned to his post, although at a smaller salary than that he had drawn before. Mr. Harding, however, was perturbed when Mr. Slope, actually Mrs. Proudie's mouthpiece, told him that he would be expected to conduct several services a week and also manage some Sunday schools in connection with the asylum. Such duties would make arduous a preferment heretofore very pleasant and leisurely.
Another change of policy was effected in the diocese when the bishop announced, through Mr. Slope, that absentee clergymen should return and help in the administration of the diocese. For years, Dr. Vesey Stanhope had left his duties to his curates while he remained in Italy. Now he was forced to return, bringing with him an ailing wife and three grown children, spinster Charlotte, exotic Signora Madeline Vesey Stanhope Neroni, and ne'er-do-well Ethelbert. Signora Neroni, separated from her husband, was an invalid who passed her days lying on a couch. Bertie had studied art and had been at varying times a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew. He had amassed some sizable debts.
The Proudies held a reception in the bishop's palace soon after their arrival. Signora Neroni, carried in with great ceremony, captured the group's attention. She had a fascinating way with men and succeeded in almost devastating Mr. Slope. Mrs. Proudie disapproved and did her best to keep Mr. Slope and others away from the invalid.
When the living of St. Ewold's became vacant, Dr. Grantly made a trip to Oxford and saw to it that the Reverend Francis Arabin, a High Churchman, received the appointment. With Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope advocating Low Church practices, it was necessary to build up the strength of the High Church forces. Mr. Arabin was a bachelor about forty years old. The question arose as to what he would do with the parsonage at St. Ewold's.
Mr. Harding's widowed daughter, Mrs. Eleanor Bold, had a good income and was the mother of a baby boy. Mr. Slope had his eye on her and attempted to interest Mrs. Bold in the work of the Sunday schools. At the same time, he asked Mr. Quiverful of Puddingdale to take over the duties of the hospital. Mr. Quiverful's fourteen children were reasons enough for his being grateful for the opportunity. Mrs. Bold, however, learned how her father felt about the extra duties imposed upon him, and she grew cold toward Mr. Slope. In the end, Mr. Harding decided that he simply could not undertake the new duties at his age, so Mr. Quiverful, a Low Churchman, was granted the preferment, much to Mrs. Proudie's satisfaction.
Mr. Slope was not the only man interested in Mrs. Bold. The Stanhope sisters, realizing that Bertie could never make a living for himself, decided that he should ask Mrs. Bold to be his wife.
Meanwhile, Mr. Slope was losing favor with Mrs. Proudie. She was repulsed that he would throw himself at the feet of Signora Neroni, and his interest in Mr. Harding's daughter, who refused to comply with her wishes, was disgraceful.
The Thornes of Ullathorne were an old and affluent family. One day, they gave a great party. Mrs. Bold, driving to Ullathorne with the Stanhopes, found herself in the same carriage with Mr. Slope, whom by this time she greatly disliked. Later that day, as she was walking with Mr. Slope, he suddenly put his arm around her and declared his love. She rushed away and told Charlotte Stanhope, who suggested that Bertie should speak to Mr. Slope about his irregularity; but the occasion for this discussion never arose. Bertie himself told Mrs. Bold that his sister Charlotte had urged him to marry Mrs. Bold for her money. Naturally insulted, Mrs. Bold was angered at the entire Stanhope family. That evening, when Dr. Stanhope learned what had happened, he insisted that Bertie go away and earn his own living or starve. Bertie left several days later.
The Dean of Barchester was beyond recovery after a stroke of apoplexy. It was understood that Dr. Grantly would not accept the deanship. Mr. Slope wanted the position, but Mrs. Proudie would not consider him as a candidate. When the dean died, speculation ran high.

Mr. Slope felt encouraged by the newspapers, which said that younger men should be admitted to places of influence in the church.
After Bertie had gone, Signora Neroni wrote a note asking Mrs. Bold to come to see her. When Mrs. Bold entered the Stanhope drawing room, Signora Neroni told her that she should marry Mr. Arabin. With calculating generosity, she had decided that he would make a good husband for Mrs. Bold.
Meanwhile, Mr. Slope had been sent off to another diocese, for Mrs. Proudie could no longer bear having him in Barchester. Mr. Arabin, through Oxford influences, was appointed to the deanship—a victory for the High Churchmen. With Mr. Slope gone, the Stanhopes felt safe in returning to Italy.
Miss Thorne asked Mrs. Bold to spend some time at Ullathorne. She also contrived to have Mr. Arabin there. It was inevitable that Mr. Arabin should ask Mrs. Bold to be his wife. Dr. Grantly was satisfied. He had threatened to forbid the hospitality of Plumstead Episcopi to Mrs. Bold if she had become the wife of a Low Churchman. In fact, Dr. Grantly was moved to such generosity that he furnished the deanery and gave wonderful gifts to the entire family, including a cello to his father-in-law, Mr. Harding.

 

Critical Evaluation

As a young man, Anthony Trollope, son of a ne'er-do-well barrister of good family, seemed destined to further the decline of the family. An undistinguished student in two distinguished public schools, he had no hopes for university or career. His mother persuaded a family friend to find work for him in the London Post Office where his performance as a clerk was to be rated as "worthless." Indeed, the burdens of the family fell upon his indefatigable mother, who had converted a family business failure in Cincinnati, Ohio, into a literary career with her satiric study Domestic Manners of Americans (1832). Like his mother, the son found his way after a change of scenery. When the Post Office sent him to the south of Ireland to assist in a postal survey, his career in the postal service began to advance, he married happily, and he began to write.
Success as a novelist came when the Post Office sent Trollope to survey southwest England. A midsummer visit to the beautiful cathedral town of Salisbury produced the idea for The Warden (1855) and, more important, furnished the outlines for a fictional county, Bar-setshire, which is as impressive as Hardy's Wessex or Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha. When he returned in Barchester Towers to the milieu of The Warden, which had been a modest success, he achieved resounding acclaim. Later he was to write four more novels in the series known as the Barsetshire Novels. This series is set in the chiefly agricultural county of that name, with its seat of Barchester, a quiet town in the west of England noted for its beautiful cathedral and fine monuments but hardly for its commercial prosperity. Thus at middle age began the career of one of the most prolific of the Victorians and, until his last years, one of the most popular.
In his day, Trollope was admired as a realist. He was delighted with Hawthorne's appraisal that his novels were "just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were being made a show of." Today, Trollope's novels are generally viewed as comic works. Instead of merely being people going about their daily affairs, Trollope's characters are in the grip of a firmly controlled irony.
The irony that Trollope perceives in the affairs of the men of Barchester arises from discrepancies between the ideals they uphold and the means by which they uphold their ideals. A layman with no special knowledge of the Church of England, Trollope vividly depicts the internecine war that breaks out between the party of the new Bishop of Barchester and that of the former bishop's son, Archdeacon Grantly. Both parties intend to preserve the integrity of the church. However, the church is vested in buildings, furnishings, livings; and these clergymen fight for power over the appurtenances, the worldly forms of the spiritual church.
Barchester Towers consists of a number of subplots, all of which are related to the ecclesiastical power struggle. Since buildings, furnishings, and livings are occupied by human beings, the clerics who guard the Church must also dispose of the lives of men. The subplots involve characters who become mere objects in a dispute over power—for example, Mr. Harding and the Quiverfuls in the competition for wardenship of Hiram's Hospital or Eleanor Bold in the rivalry of two clergymen for her hand in marriage. Episodes not directly related to the ecclesiastical battles serve to underscore them—as in the parallel between the rivalry of Mrs. Lookaloft and Mrs. Greenacre and the absurd ploys of the higher orders that abound in the novel.
The main conflicts of the novel are those that engage the high and the mighty of Barchester. The strength of Trollope's satire lies in his refusal to oversimplify the motives of these worldlings of the church or to deny them sincerity in their defense of the church. Even as Slope genuinely believes Grantly and his type to be the enemies of religion, so also does the Archdeacon honestly believe that Slope is the kind who could well ruin the Church of England.
One of Trollope's devices for deflating these militant clerics is to treat their wars in the mock heroic vein. After the first meeting between the Archdeacon and the Proud-ies, the author declares, "And now, had I the pen of a mighty poet, would I sing in epic verse the noble wrath of the Archdeacon." In time, Mrs. Proudie is ironically compared to Juno, Medea, even Achilles, while the archdeacon's extravagance in celebrating Eleanor Bold's marriage to his champion, Arabin, is suggestive of the glorious warrior returning from the fields with his spoils.
Marital glory is satirized by a recurrent analogy with games, underscoring the truth that Barchester's leadership is really concerned with social rather than spiritual or moral issues. Slope's major defeats arise from his indecorous behavior with Madeline Neroni, who is alert to every possible move. Worse, he underestimates his other opponent, Mrs. Proudie, and at the end, he discovers that "Mrs. Proudie had checkmated him."
Human strife is incongruous with the idealized setting of peaceful Barchester, its venerable church and its rural villages round about, all endowed with a loveliness suggestive of the age-old pastoral tradition. The cathedral itself seems to judge the folly of its worldly champions. As the battles commerce, Archdeacon Grantly looks up to the cathedral towers as if evoking a blessing for his efforts. However genial the comedy played out beneath the Barchester towers, the outcome is not without serious significance; for the ultimate result is the further separation of man from his ideals. In the end, the bishop's wife finds that her "sphere is more extended, more noble, and more suited to her ambition than that of a cathedral city," while the bishop himself "had learnt that his proper sphere of action lay in close contiguity with Mrs. Proudie 's wardrobe." As Mr. Slope makes his ignominious final departure from the city, "he gave no longing lingering look after the cathedral towers." As for the Archdeacon, it is sufficient for him to "walk down the High Street of Barchester without feeling that those who see him are comparing his claims with those of Mr. Slope." Despite the futility of its human strivings, Barchester Towers is a cheerful novel, not merely because the satire provokes laughter, but also because occasionally, briefly, the real and the ideal meet. Mr. Harding, for example, is too peaceable, too naive, too reticent to be effective in the world. Nonetheless, when prompted by his dedication to simple justice, Mr. Harding personally introduces Mr. Quiverful to his former charges at Hiram Hospital. This act, representing the union of his profession and practice, creates a consequence greater than the act would suggest, for it causes the Barchester world to treat Mr. Quiverful with more respect as he assumes his duties. Quite appropriately, then, Trollope brings the novel to its close with pastoral serenity by offering a word of Mr. Harding, who functions not as a hero and not as a perfect divine but as a good, humble man without guile.

 

 

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