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The Warden by Anthony Trollope

The Warden (original 1855; edition 1995)

by Anthony Trollope

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2,669802,228 (3.83)5 / 425
Title:The Warden
Authors:Anthony Trollope
Info:London: The Folio Society, 1995 xxiv, 172p ill 23cm
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:Folio Society, C19, fiction, anglophone

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The Warden by Anthony Trollope (1855)



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English (79)  French (1)  All languages (80)
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Where I got the book: audiobook on Audible.

This is the first novel in the Barchester Chronicles—attentive friends may remember that I listened to the second novel, Barchester Towers, first, loved it and then found it was the abridged version (grrrr) and decided to go back to the beginning and listen to the whole series, unabridged. There are several different audio versions available, and after listening to the samples I opted for this one, narrated by David Shaw-Parker who does a nice job.

It’s a simple enough story: clergyman Septimus Harding is living a peaceful life as the Warden of a hospital (a sort of charity home) for old, indigent men. It’s a nice job with few responsibilities and a fat stipend, allowing Mr. Harding to live as a gentleman and support his single daughter Eleanor. But then reformer John Bold (who happens to be Eleanor’s sweetheart) starts asking questions about the legacy that set up the hospital in the first place, and why the Warden lives so well when the old men only receive a small payment. The newspapers start paying attention, and poor Mr. Harding (who’s been supplementing the old men’s living out of his own pocket) has to choose between giving up his comfortable life or putting up with the glare of publicity brought about by a lawsuit.

Trollope’s sympathies seem to be squarely on the side of tradition in this story, which was inspired by a number of cases brought against clergymen who were living too well. Having just listened to Barchester Towers (which, of course, I shall be listening to again soon in the unabridged version) I was surprised to realize how closely the two novels are connected—if you’re going to read Barchester Towers, generally considered Trollope’s greatest novel, you should doubtless read The Warden first. Being Trollope there’s a great deal of legal and political detail, interspersed with character sketches at some length.

At one point we follow Mr. Harding through just about every minute of a difficult afternoon spent in London, which is hard going even though for the historian it does supply an enormous amount of detail about how people actually lived. It’s during this day that Trollope also goes into a long riff on the power of the press, which is decidedly tedious. In today’s terms, this novel’s got a bit of a saggy middle. And yet I enjoyed the story on the whole, and the audiobook format definitely makes it easier to digest. I’m looking forward to revisiting Barchester in the near future. ( )
1 vote JaneSteen | Mar 29, 2015 |
There is not a huge amount of plot to this novel and the Goodreads blurb sums it up really. There is humour in Mr Harding's fear of the archdeacon, but the story is very topical and references several real-life cases of C of E abuses and attempted reforms, as well as parodying Dickens and Carlyle. The introduction and notes in this edition are excellent, almost necessary for a modern reader truly to understand certain sections.

I much prefer the next in the series, "Barchester Towers" (I read them out of order), and I agree with the narrator that Dr Grantly doesn't come out of this volume too well. I found John Bold's actions here puzzling: he goes after Mr Harding despite being in love with Eleanor, but when she asks him to drop the case as it is upsetting her father, he agrees immediately. Either he didn't think at all about the consequences of his actions or he is entirely lacking in the kind of principle that the meek Mr Harding displays. ( )
  pgchuis | Nov 26, 2014 |
An enjoyable snippet of Victoriana. I mainly read it as a set-up for Barchester Towers which is the next in the series and is supposed to be quite good. This one stood nicely on its own, though. Good introduction to Mr. Harding and the other characters. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 24, 2014 |
A masterpiece and, fittingly for a novel about money, a plot that revolves around accountability. It’s a compelling story of a good man who tries above all to do good in an imperfect world where others, through ignorance or because they are misguided or, in the case of members of the press, because they are vile, cause harm either intentionally or unintentionally.
This is a stunning novel, but with every turn of the page the reader mutters ‘this will not end well’. The question here is not so much can a good man triumph? but rather what would his triumph look like, and what, coming back to accountability, would be the cost?
It is, however, an absolute joy to read.
I grew up in a cathedral town and, reading the description of Barchester in the opening pages of ‘The Warden’, where Trollope describes the town in loving detail, I was convinced that he had based his fictional Barchester on my home town. Trollope’s description of everything from the cathedral close to the alms houses that the plot of the novel turns on being, if not exact, then an entirely faithful depiction of the essence of the places in the town I grew up in.
Then again, anyone who has grown up in a cathedral town will probably claim the same. There is a pattern to those places. More probably, it is Trollope’s genius that makes the place familiar.
As there is a pattern to the cathedral closes of Barchester, there is a pattern to the story here too, although that is by no means a weakness. Rather, the reader progresses with a gathering sense of foreboding as the tale simultaneously unfolds and tangles.
An honourable man is confronted with a criticism of his character by a family friend when the accusation is levelled at him that he, the titular Warden of the alms houses, profits personally from an arrangements that sees the residents of the alms houses disadvantaged.
Essentially, everyone is content until an individual acts out of a misguided sense of public spiritness, with the situation further complicated when others with their own agenda intervene to their own ends.
This is, in short, an astonishing book, and a compelling read.
In it Trollope takes aim at some obvious targets, but justly so. Given that the principal characters in the book are clergymen, and the story features eminent lawyers, it really does say something that it is the press, and the popular press in particular, that is singled out for vilification. Trollope’s demolition of the principles of the press is absolute, his demonisation of those who sit in unaccountable judgement of others they do not even know, utter.
The Warden contains the best depiction of the unaccountability of the press, and the lack of care journalists have for individuals fed to the press that I have ever read. Trollope so neatly captures the self important arrogance of the popular press and those that write it that one is almost compelled to hire a muckspreader and head for Fleet Street to make a not very subtle point about what newspapers are full of.
Barely as the reader stopped muttering ‘fucking right Tony!’ when Trollope takes aim at the even less accountable, anonymous, ‘author’, the pamphleteer hiding behind an alias, sharing their ill informed opinions in a desperate bid to be as popular as they are smug (which would take some doing).
Having essentially destroyed the tabloids and bloggers, the reader might expect lawyers to come in for some criticism also. The reader is not disappointed.
The church itself is spared harsh criticism. True, it’s the Anglican faith being described here, so the only thing the choirboys need to be worried about is being late for evensong, but generally the priests of Bartchester are a jolly pleasant bunch who are genuinely committed to serving the spiritual needs of their flock.
‘The Warden’ is a compelling tale of the unintended consequences of the actions of those who meddle to do well, how events once set in motion can move beyond the control of those that set them in motion, and how those without morality or honour seek to exploit discord for personal gain. ( )
3 vote macnabbs | Oct 7, 2014 |
My first work by Trollope, and I was impressed.

The author writes in a simple and straightforward style that a modern reader can appreciate. Likewise, the story line was straightforward, with just enough characters to complete the work. So often I am left wondering why authors of this period include so many unnecessary persons and detail. Not so with Trollope.

Among its messages, I most appreciated the book's powerful statement about how media can be used, or abused. ( )
  la2bkk | Sep 27, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Trollope, Anthonyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ardizzone, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrap, PhyllisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawthorne, NigelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kredel, FritzIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skilton, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Rev. Septimus Harding was, a few years since, a beneficed clergyman residing in the cathedral town of ---; let us call it Barchester.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192834088, Paperback)

The book centers on the character of Mr. Harding, a clergyman of great personal integrity, whose charitable income far exceeds the purpose for which it was intended. Young John Bold turns his reforming zeal to exposing what he considers to be an abuse of privilege, despite being in love with Mr. Harding's daughter Eleanor. The novel was highly topical as a case regarding the misapplication of church funds was the scandalous subject of contemporary debate. But Trollope uses this specific case to explore and illuminate the universal complexities of human motivation and social morality. This edition includes an introduction and notes by David Skilton and illustrations by Edward Ardizzone.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:28 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

This novel centres on the character of Mr. Harding, a clergyman of great personal integrity, whose charitable income far exceeds the purpose for which it was intended. Young John Bold turns his reforming zeal to exposing what he considers to be an abuse of privilege, despite being in love with Mr. Harding's daughter Eleanor.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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9 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140432140, 0141198990

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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