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Barchester Towers (1857)

by Anthony Trollope

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Barsetshire Chronicles (2)

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4,7761042,203 (4.16)5 / 725
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

Barchester Towers is the second book in Trollope's well-loved "Barsetshire Trilogy," which follows the trials and tribulations of the inhabitants of an imagined cathedral town, Barchester. The controversial and unexpected appointment of the new bishop creates rivalries and intrigue.

.… (more)
  1. 10
    Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym (chrisharpe)
  2. 21
    Canon in Residence by Victor L. Whitechurch (Eat_Read_Knit)
    Eat_Read_Knit: More scheming, gossip and social justice in the Cathedral Close.
  3. 10
    La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas (starbox)
  4. 10
    The Perpetual Curate by Margaret Oliphant (nessreader)
    nessreader: Oliphant's carlingford chronicles are an equivalent series to the barchester books; victorian sagas of social manouevering and parish politics. If you enjoy barsetshire, they are well worth trying. Perpetual is about high anglicanism vs lower church and like trollope spreads sympathy across opposed characters.… (more)

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English (101)  Portuguese (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (103)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
Ultimately a Victorian story of who will marry whom, but the opening 20% or so of the novel, in which the characters are named and outlined and the stage is set, is hilarious. Certainly, if you were interested, you could learn a lot about the ranked clerical positions of the Anglican church here, and many great words are used, e.g. congé, toxophilites, ha-ha, and, my favorite, hebdomadal. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
“Her virtues were too numerous to describe, and not sufficiently interesting to deserve description.”

"husbands, oh, my marital friends, what great comfort is there to be derived from a wife well obeyed!"

Barchester Towers is hilarious, a couple of the numerous witty quotes from this novel. Drop a star for being a bit long-winded. Trollope is becoming a favorite.... ( )
  almin | May 13, 2023 |
It is with great regret that I assign my dear Trollope a mere four stars—really four-and-a-half stars. To me, the most shameful part of being slightly disappointed in Barchester Towers was just how much weight is given to the novel: not only in terms of Trollope’s own oeuvre, but in terms of Victorian literature more generally. With that said, though, having read around and dappled in work of his both in and outside the Chronicles of Barsetshire, I found Barchester Towers lacking in what for me is what makes Trollope such an extraordinary writer—namely, his pacing and the way in which he engages his readers right from the start in the conflicts and dramas of his dramatis personae.

Here, though, in the second book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, Trollope is actually atypical: he takes over half the book to set up his characters, to concoct (an admittedly compelling) mise-en-scène from which to focus closely on three characters’ struggles for power in the tiny cathedral close of Barchester. As always, Trollope’s characterization is flawless: Mr. Slope’s drive to transform Barchester as a middle-man of sorts, pitting the incoming bishop Dr. Proudie against his obdurate and power-hungry wife in order to wield authority in any way he can… this is done extremely well in Trollope’s deft hands, especially as the trio is meant to symbolize at the microcosmic level changes in the world at large, but “progress” that is by no means untouched by a more primal individual desire to get whatever it is one wants by any means necessary.

Trollope is always brilliant in painting unlikeable characters, and, in doing so, making us see their flaws and their various vices in ourselves. In Barchester Towers, Trollope adds to this gift something that is much more covert in his other works: a rich use of comedy and humor. Barchester Towers is, above all, a very funny book, a satire, and one that shows Trollope balancing well the individual, the social, and the narcissistic desire for power and position. While his other novels have a humor that is more covert, Barchester Towers is rare in Trollope’s oeuvre in that it will actually cause one to laugh aloud: one wonders why—if not from realizing that such a treatment did not agree with his vision of the novelist’s duties—Trollope abandoned the outrageously comic in his subsequent work.

And that, perhaps, is why I felt this novel to be a disappointment when compared with the others of his that I’ve read—and also why I find it hard to believe that Barchester Towers is his most famous and widely-read novel. Although weak Trollope is far better than the best work by a novelist less talented than he—e.g., see my review of Doctor Wortle’s School—still, this novel is in no way indicative of the scope and utter humanity to be found in Trollope’s richer and more complex novels like The Claverings, which remains my all-time favorite of his to this day.

This is by no means meant to dissuade anyone from reading Barchester Towers… far from it. The world would be a better place is more people read Trollope. But it would be unwise to read his most lauded work and presume that this is all Trollope is about, because this is far from the case. Instead, one should read Barchester Towers for what it is: Trollope’s successful attempt at integrating comedy with pathos, humor with his analyses of greed, lightness with his examination of the darkness of which we are all capable. And, of course, one should read Barchester Towers on the path toward completing the Chronicles in their entirety: something all readers should do, at least once, in their reading lives. ( )
1 vote proustitute | Apr 2, 2023 |
This is a delightful, satirical comedy about a group of characters who live in and around the community that surrounds Barchester (Winchester Cathedral) in the mid-nineteenth century. My favorite character was the Signora Nerona, who, though she is crippled by the violence done to her by her estranged, Italian husband, manages to make almost every man around her fall in love with her by her sensuousness, her large, expressful eyes, and the almost unbelievable insight into humans that she shocks and beguiles them with. I had fun looking up the setting on Google maps, finding where Hiram's Hospital was, the Bishop's palace, etc. I had probably five laugh out loud moments as I read this book, that makes use of the hypocrisy of religious workers to people it's characters. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
Having read The Warden last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, I had determined to read the next book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire this year. I did not know what to expect, but was delighted to find Mr. Harding and his daughter, Eleanor, waiting for the next phase of their story, along with some new characters and story lines.

The book is worth reading if for nothing more than the names of it’s characters, which leave no doubt in the mind as to occupation or moral qualities. Dr. Fillgrave must surely make the most somber smile, and who would have difficulty determining the greatest failing of Mrs. Proudie? In fact, his humor is scattered throughout the novel in equal portions with his wisdom.

Oh, husbands, oh, my marital friends, what great comfort is there to be derived from a wife well obeyed.

Can’t find any fault with the humor or the wisdom there, can you? But, beyond the playfulness, there are some serious issues at work, including the struggle for power that takes place between the two factions in the church. Trollope understood the political nature of the Church in his time, and the shenanigans were as bad as some we see in the political arena of our own. I certainly felt that neither side was as interested in serving the higher good or the people of the parish so much as their own interests and advancements.

There are representatives of the high church in the Grantly faction, Tory by political leaning, and the newly established Proudie faction, Whigs, unfortunately, represented by not only the spineless Bishop Proudie and his oppressive wife, but also by our most obvious villain, Obadiah Slope (his name makes you cringe, does it not?). Trollope is a master of description and I had no difficulty in reading Mr. Slope’s character in his demeanor.

His hair is lank and of a dull pale reddish hue. It is always formed into three straight, lumpy masses, each brushed with admirable precision and cemented with much grease; two of them adhere closely to the sides of his face, and the other lies at right angles above them. His face is nearly of the same color as his hair, though perhaps a little redder; it is not unlike beef--beef, however, one would say, of a bad quality. His forehead is capacious and high, but square and heavy and unpleasantly shiny.

He goes on to describe his mouth and his nose (which is “spongy and porous”). I dare say, we walk away with a complete picture of Slope and we cannot mistake him, even on this first meeting, for a man we would ever wish to invite to preach us a sermon or take tea with us. That Eleanor attempts to give Slope the benefit of the doubt is a testament to the fairness of her character.

To my delight, Trollope has also created Mr. Harding, a truly good man who attempts to always take the high road, and while perhaps a little naive, garners all our admiration and hope. On the female side, we have the independent thinking Eleanor Bold and the lascivious Signora Neroni.

I can promise that Trollope has taken what might have been a very dry subject in the politics of the church, and woven a complete and never boring tale of the people affected by it. This is only my second Trollope, but I found it both interesting and easy to read. It has a bit more character development and length than The Warden and would stand alone as a story, but I find that having read The Warden added a depth to the novel that I believe would have been missing otherwise. I am planning to continue the series next year with Dr. Thorne, and I am happy to have come to Trollope. Late to the table, but the feast is still fine.
( )
1 vote mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Trollope, AnthonyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ardizzone, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bowen, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilmour, RobinEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hilton, MargaretNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKay, DonaldIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKay, DonaldIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, FrederickEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reddick, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sadleir, MichaelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tillotson, KathleenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, TimothyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wheatley, FrancisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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In the latter days of July in the year 185–, a most important question was for ten days hourly asked in the cathedral city of Barchester, and answered every hour in various ways – Who was to be the new Bishop?
The outer world, though it constantly reviles us for our human infirmities and throws in our teeth the fact that being clergymen we are still no more than men, demands of us that we should do our work with godlike perfection. There is nothing god-like about us: we differ from each other with the acerbity common to man; we triumph over each other with human frailty; we allow differences on subjects of divine origin to produce among us antipathies and enmities which are anything but divine. This is all true. But what would you have in place of it? There is no infallible head for a church on earth.
It was dreadful to be thus dissevered from his dryad, and sent howling back to a Barchester pandemonium just as the nectar and ambrosia were about to descend on the fields of asphodel.
Considering how much we are all given to discuss the characters of others, and discuss them often not in the strictest spirit of charity, it is singular how little we are inclined to think that others can speak ill-naturedly of us, and how angry and hurt we are when proof reaches us that they have done so. It is hardly too much to say that we all of us occasionally speak of our dearest friends in a manner in which those dearest friends would very little like to hear themselves mentioned, and that we nevertheless expect that our dearest friends shall invariably speak of us as though they were blind to all our faults, but keenly alive to every shade of our virtues.
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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

Barchester Towers is the second book in Trollope's well-loved "Barsetshire Trilogy," which follows the trials and tribulations of the inhabitants of an imagined cathedral town, Barchester. The controversial and unexpected appointment of the new bishop creates rivalries and intrigue.


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blurb: Barchester Towers is Trollope’s most popular novel and one of the classics of English fiction. It is the second of the six Chronicles of Barsetshire, which follow the intrigues of ambition and love in the cathedral town of Barchester. Trollope was of course interested in the church, that pillar of Victorian society - in its susceptibility to corruption, hypocrisy, and blinkered conservatism - but the Barsetshire novels are no more ‘ecclesiastical’ than his Palliser novels are political. It is the behavior of individuals within a power structure that interests him. In Barchester Towers Trollope continues the story of Mr. Harding and his daughter Eleanor, adding to his cast of characters that oily symbol of progress Mr. Slope, the hen pecked Dr. Proudie, and the amiable and breezy Stanhope family. The central questions of this moral comedy - Who will be warden? Who will be dean? Who will marry Eleanor? - are skillfully handled with that subtlety of ironic observation that has won Trollope such a wide and appreciative relationship.
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140432035, 0141199113

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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