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Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

Framley Parsonage (original 1861; edition 2004)

by Anthony Trollope, David Skilton (Introduction), Peter Miles (Introduction)

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I've been having an uneven time of it in Barsetshire. One false start for The Warden before plowing ahead and really enjoying it, a small interval then Barchester Towers which I enjoyed after an initial disappointment that there was to be such a shift in characters. Then a much longer interval to Dr Thorne, which I enjoyed hugely. I was therefore looking forward to Framley Parsonage which turned out to be quite a different sort of beast. Perhaps, thinking about it, the problem for me is that Dr Thorne was the odd one out, being little concerned with clerical life. With Framley Parsonage we are firmly back in issues relating to the Church of England, and it being some time since I had last read about them I was struggling somewhat to remember the nuances of the power struggles and relationships of people whom I had last encountered in Barchester Towers. Dr Thorne at times felt like a cross between Austen and Dickens, in Framley Parsonage we are heading more into Dickens territory. From Austen we still have the difficulties of relationships across various social divides, from the near starving children of Mr Crawley "a strict, stern, unpleasant man, and one who feared God and his own conscience", a cleric made bitter by poverty and ill fortune, through to the Duke of Omnium, so grand that he is rarely seen and even more rarely heard.

Comfortably off, but still considerably below the half way point in this heap is Mark Robarts, who owes his living to the accident of having been placed for his education as a private pupil of a clergyman who was a friend of his father's. This clergyman had only one other pupil, the young Lord Lufton (it is not clear why he should have been there, but there he was). The boys became friends, and when Lady Lufton came to visit she would observe what she felt to be the good influence of Mark upon her son and commented to his father, a gentleman physician of no private means, that she hoped the boys would stay together throughout their education. Dr Robarts duly sent his son to Harrow and then to Oxford. Mark would frequently stay at Framley Court at the invitation of Lady Lufton, who continued to view him with affection as well as expecting him to continue to act for good on her son. On Mark's graduation, Lady Lufton conferred with Dr Robarts, and a decision was made that the Church would be good, and in a surprisingly short time Mark Robarts, still in his early twenties, became Vicar of Framley, the living of Framley being in the gift of Lady Lufton. Continuing her gentle but inexorable arranging of everything for the best, Lady Lufton, believing that a parson should have a wife, put in Mark's path a woman she felt would be suitable, a friend of her married daughter's, and, without either knowing their roles had been cast, the two fell in love and married.

It will be seen from this that Robarts and his wife, though not entirely Lady Lufton's creatures, had attained their good fortune through her; they were aware of it, and thankful to her for it, and Lady Lufton for her part, though kind and genuinely fond of both Mark and his wife, would subtly ensure that that awareness remained. Robarts was not given the Framley living simply out of affection, or even to keep him near as a brake on her son, but also because Lady Lufton had very particular views on church matters and wanted to ensure that the Vicar of Framley would not take a line with which she did not agree.

Temptation has already been set in Robarts' path by his upbringing - a boy and then a young man of no independent means spending much of his time in the company of a young baron and his, and his mother's circle, on the edge of, and familiar with, a life he cannot afford. If Lady Lufton loved Mark as a second son, it is not surprising that Mark should occasionally feel a son's rebelliousness at her rule.

Lady Lufton is particularly opposed to the Duke of Omnium and his followers, not only for their politics, but for their fast ways. The Duke is seen as a corrupter, and all within his circle tainted. One of that circle is Tom Sowerby, MP. "Mr Sowerby was one of those men who are known to be very poor - as poor as debt can make a man, but who, nevertheless, enjoy all the luxuries which money can give. It was believed that he could not live in England out of jail but for his protection as a member of Parliament, and yet it seemed that there was no end to his horses and carriages, his servants and retinue. He had been at this work for a great many years, and practice, they say makes perfect. Such companions are very dangerous. There is no cholera, no yellow fever, no small-pox, more contagious than debt. If one lives habitually among embarrassed men, one catches it to a certainty. No one had injured the community in this way more fatally than Mr Sowerby. But still he carried on the game himself; and now on this morning, carriages and horses thronged at his gate, as though he were as substantially rich as his friend the Duke of Omnium."

Mark is aware that Lord Lufton has mixed with Sowerby and run up considerable debts through his influence. Mark is invited to Chaldicotes, Sowerby's home, for a weekend, convinces himself that it would be a good thing to go,particularly as he knows that some more elevated clerics will be there, and that it is time he stopped following Lady Lufton's wishes in everything, even if his living is in her hands. His courage falls short of facing his patroness however, and he tells his wife to break the news of his absence. During the weekend Mark is told that the Duke of Omnium expects him to join the party at Gartherum Castle. Despite knowing how great a transgression this would be in the eyes of Lady Lufton, Mark writes home, asking his wife to send him some money and to once again break the news to Lady Lufton. Thus set up the naive vicar is an easy target for Sowerby, who asks him to sign a note to cover a debt. At this point the whole novel seemed to be too deterministically taking Mark Robarts down the road to ruin to make the book seem worth reading. The very splendid Miss Dunstable, a clever independently minded heiress introduced in Dr Thorne, appears, though there is not enough of her. There is a love story, which kept this going for me, though I read that Trollope said there was a love story only because there had to be one, and there is an awful lot of space given over to clumsy and tedious (though perhaps thought witty at the time) commentary on Parliamentary politics - elections, reversals of fortunes, and changes of government, with matters being referred to as battle between the gods and the giants, references to changes in social habits and attitudes of the time (the new fashion for dining a la russe, opinions on clergy riding to hounds, etc.) and a lot of stuff about how signing promissory notes can get one in big trouble.

Ultimately, I just wanted to get to the end of this book. I am surprised it was his first commercial success, as I enjoyed the earlier ones better, but perhaps it fitted better into its time. Also, I read that Trollope was writing this at the same time as another, gloomier novel, that it was being published in instalments and that as they were to be of a set length some instalments suffered from padding, which led to some peculiarities. (I read the Penguin Classics version, which reprints the work as it originally appeared in the Cornhill Magazine.)
1 vote Oandthegang | Oct 23, 2016 |
I read this years ago but I didn't remember much, except that it was about the Luftons and the Robarts. What a wonderful read this was. The character of Lady Lufton, in particular, stood out to me. Trollope's ability to invest his characters with deep humanity really comes through in her. She is snobbish but loving, managing but concerned about those around her, strong-minded but able to see when she is wrong. She doesn't come around easily to another's point of view, but when she does it's wholehearted. Trollope writes such interesting women; not all of them, of course, but his middle-aged women are complex and interesting.

The story has more lots of romance and lots of politics. The plot centers on Mark Robarts, the young vicar at Framley who gets himself into financial trouble when he mixes with people who are less scrupulous than he is. At the same time, his sister Lucy and the young Lord Lufton become attracted to each other, which puts Lady Lufton's plans to marry her son to Griselda Grantly at risk. We see lots of characters from the earlier novels.

You get a hint in this book of what the Palliser novels will focus on in terms of Parliamentary politics, and I really enjoyed the mixture of Church and State. This may not be considered one of Trollope's great novels, but I'd read it again in a minute. ( )
  Sunita_p | Aug 5, 2016 |
There are a lot of new characters in this fourth of the Barsetshire series, and they have complicated relationships with each other and also familiar characters. First, there is the parson of Framley Parsonage, Mark Robarts, his wife Fanny, and his sister Lucy who comes to live with him after the death of his father. Second, there is Lady Lufton, who is responsible for Mark getting to be the parson because her son, now Lord Lufton after the death of her husband, grew up with Mark, going to school and university with him. She has plans for her son to marry Griselda, the daughter of the Grantlys (who readers of the Barsetshire will remember), but Lord Lufton falls in love with Lucy, who Lady Lufton disapproves of partly because she has no money and partly because she is lower in class. Then there is the Chaldicotes "set" consisting of Mr. Sowerby, who has mortgaged all his land to the Duke of Omnium and borrowed from everyone, and Harold Smith, who is married to Mr. Sowerby's sister who is known throughout the novel as Mrs. Harold Smith. Mrs. Smith is very good friends with Miss Dunstable (who readers of the series will remember), a heiress of a commercial enterprise who has tons of money, and cooks up a plan to have her marry her brother and cancel all his debts. But Miss Dunstable wants someone who doesn't want to marry someone who doesn't want her for her money and is intrigued by Dr. Thorne who she has met through her friends the Greshams. There are more new characters, and familiar characters, but I won't complicate things further.

Not only is this a tale of romantic problems, but it is also a tale of financial double-dealing as Mark Robarts uncharacteristically and foolishly agrees to sign a "note" for Mr. Sowerby, which compels him to pay money if Mr. Sowerby doesn't pay it by a certain date. He doesn't tell Fanny until all is lost and the bailiffs are almost at the door. It is also a political novel as the government fails partway through the novel, but not before Harold Smith gets a job in the government and as a favor for his brother-in-law, Mr. Sowerby, gets an additional church job for Mark Robarts. Meanwhile, Griselda Grantly receives a proposal from Lord Dumbello, who is the son of the woman who is the Duke of Omnium's mistress and Lord Hartletop, and is of much higher rank than Lord Lufton, so is a better catch. The Proudies and Arabins also make appearances and a very poor clergyman and his wife also play a role. It is a complex novel and i thoroughly enjoyed it, even though, having read the Palliser novels first, I miss having the same characters throughout the series. I always like it when familiar characters show up.
  rebeccanyc | May 18, 2016 |
After having a little trouble getting into Doctor Thorne, I was sucked into Framley Parsonage almost immediately, and enjoyed every minute of this fourth journey into Barchester. Another bunch of fascinating characters dealing with the everyday machinations of English life, including the wonderful Lady Lufton, the indomitable Miss Dunstable back again, and some other good old friends from previous volumes. More than once I wanted to smack Mark Robarts upside the head for being a doofus, and he would have deserved it, too. But the story is a good one, and I think reading this in the three-chapter sections as which it was originally serialized lent a certain extra punch to the book. ( )
  JBD1 | Sep 8, 2015 |
The fourth book in The Chronicles of Barsetshire is really quite wonderful. A young clergyman, Mark Robarts, gets himself into financial trouble when he co-signs loans for an aristocrat, Nathaniel Sowerby, with whom he has just become acquainted. Mark is tempted by the society which he is introduced to, but of which he has no understanding. He has a most forgiving wife named Fanny. His patron is Lady Lufton and her son Ludovic, Lord Lufton, who has, to his mother's dismay, fallen in love with Mark's sister, Lucy. There are at least four love stories here, some of which include characters that we have met in previous books in the series. Politics is at a minimum, and character descriptions are clever and witty. Miss Dunstable is back - she is a great character, along with Doctor Thorne, the Granthems, Grantleys, Arabins, and Proudies. Trollope's descriptions of the society of the time are clever. I love the way he handles his female characters. ( )
1 vote NanaCC | Jul 26, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Trollopeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Miles, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mullin, KatherineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Gorman, FrancisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skilton, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, TimothyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When young Mark Robarts was leaving college, his father might well declare that all men began to say all good things to him, and to extol his fortune in that he had a son blessed with so excellent a disposition.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140432132, Paperback)

Mark Robarts is a clergyman with ambitions beyond his small country parish of Framley. In a naive attempt to mix in influential circles, he agrees to guarantee a bill for a large sum of money for the disreputable local Member of Parliament, while being helped in his career in the Church by the same hand. But the unscrupulous politician reneges on his financial obligations, and Mark must face the consequences this debt may bring to his family. One of Trollope's most enduringly popular novels since it appeared in 1860, Framley Parsonage is an evocative depiction of country life in nineteenth-century England, told with great compassion and acute insight into human nature.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:42 -0400)

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Clergyman Mark Robarts has fallen in with the unreliable Mr Sowerby, and through his dealings with Sowerby finds himself in severe financial difficulties.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140432132, 0141199768

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