1815: Anthony Trollope - Chronicles of Barsetshire I: The Warden
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Last year, the 75 Books Challenge for 2012 offered a tutored reading of Trollope's first novel in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, The Warden.
You can find the postings here: http://www.librarything.nl/topic/140276
I'm currently reading this, in the new Oxford World's Classics edition, and I'm finding the notes about the clerical details very helpful.
I'm listening to Simon Vance narrate the book. This is my fist introduction, and I'm very much enjoying it. I'm particularly intrigued by the marital story of the Archdeacon.
I loved Trollope's Palliser series and so started the Barsethire series with eager anticipation, only to be initially disappointed. But I warmed to this book as I read it, seeing Trollope's talent for characterization at work.
Basically the story involves an elderly cleric, Septimus Harding, who has a cushy job as the warden of a "hospital," a residence for twelve old indigent men known as bedesmen. He has two daughters, one married to the archdeacon, who is the son of the bishop (an old friend of the warden and the reason he has the job), and one who is in love with and loved by a man named John Bold. And therein lies the rub. For Bold is a "radical" who has read the will establishing the hospital and has filed a lawsuit challenging the 800 pounds per year the warden earns as opposed to the paltry sums given to the bedesman. (In real life, several challenges to similar cushy jobs for clerics had been raised at the time Trollope wrote this book.) Needless to say, complications ensue.
The strength of this novel, which was an early one for Trollope, lies in the characterizations, primarily but not only of the warden, who has a crisis of conscience separate from the lawsuit and follows his conscience despite the disagreement of almost everyone around him. Other well-developed characters include the younger daughter, John Bold, and the archdeacon. But it is the warden who is the center of the tale, and when the reader follows him to London he has some almost amusing experiences because of his naivete. In addition to delineating church politics, Trollope explores the power of the press and satirizes Carlyle and Dickens.
My Oxford World Classics edition was enhanced by almost too many detailed notes. It also included a story called "The Two Heroines of Plumlington" which I didn't read because the introduction and the copy on the back of the book identified it as an addendum to the Barsethsire series. It seems odd to include it with the first novel in the series.
By the time this novel ended, I was looking forward to continuing the series.
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