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Dr. Wortle's School (1881)

by Anthony Trollope

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4481245,826 (3.76)41
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) was born in London to a bankrupt barrister father and a mother who, as a well-known writer, supported the family. Trollope enjoyed considerable acclaim both as a novelist and as a senior civil servant in the Post Office. He published more than forty novels and many short stories that are regarded by some as among the greatest of nineteenth-century fiction.… (more)

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“It is often a question to me whether the religion of the world is not more odious than its want of religion.” — Anthony Trollope, “Dr. Wortle's School”

Jesus himself, when sounding off against hypocrites, probably would have agreed with Dr. Wortle in his comment above, for hypocrisy and an absence of grace are themes that run through Anthony Trollope's 1881 novel “Dr. Wortle's School.”

Dr. Wortle operates an exclusive school for boys bound for Oxford and Cambridge, and there is no shortage of parents willing to pay the steep tuition. That is, until controversy erupts regarding an excellent teacher named Mr. Peacocke when it is discovered Peacocke and his wife may not be legally married. The couple had married in America after learning that her husband had died, but then this supposedly late husband had reappeared. Rather than separate, the couple fled to England. Then the husband's brother shows up with blackmail on his mind.

With more charity than most people in his situation might possess, Dr. Wortle sends Mr. Peacocke back to America to determine whether that husband really is alive or, as Dr. Wortle suspects, now dead. Meanwhile he allows Mrs. Peacocke to remain in her residence at the school. This starts tongues wagging, and parents begin withdrawing their sons from the school.

In a subplot, Lord Bracy, one of Dr. Wortle's most promising students, falls in love with the doctor's daughter.

The story actually seems a bit thin, but Trollope milks it for everything it holds, while making readers consider how they might act were they in the position of Mr. Peacocke, Mrs. Peacocke, Dr. Wortle or one of the other key characters. Sometimes choosing between right and wrong, or between the lesser of evils, seems easier when it is not your choice to make. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Aug 13, 2020 |
Shorter by half than most Trollopes, but just as good. A look at how gossip can taint someone's respectable life, how a supportive friend can suffer because of his support and how people, once judgmental and condemnatory, will pretend it never bothered them when the situation is resolved. If we think that shaming someone or mocking someone by social media is new, it isn't; it's just faster now. ( )
  ReadMeAnother | Jul 2, 2019 |
This book very much felt like a book of its time, as opposed to Austen's work which, while very much couched in its era, is also universal. Trollope is great fun to read, funny, engaging, but ultimately, frivolous. All the fuss about a couple who married when they thought the woman's husband was dead when he really wasn't but is now...sigh. The stakes just weren't high enough for me to be rabidly interested in the outcome. And the add-on plot about Dr. Wortle's daughter and her earl-suitor felt clumsy. I did adore Dr. Wortle's emotional outbursts and his deeply felt sense of injustice. God knows how many letters exactly like the ones he writes in this book I've penned and never sent. Or worse, penned and sent. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
I'm afraid my enjoyment of this was somewhat marred by a poor audiobook but I did enjoy the story. Dr. Wrotle is an odd character but likelable, very concerned with his pride and position but still good at heart. The Peacockes are slightly less interesting, she is rather a damp rag when it finally comes down to it. The romance of Mary and Carstairs was raher an afterthought but amusing. More of the Trollope project completed
  amyem58 | Jul 19, 2016 |
Dr Wortle employs at his exclusive boys' prep school a Mr and Mrs Peacocke. Mr Peacocke met his American wife in St Louis and they do not socialize with the families around them. It transpires that the couple married after Mrs Peacocke's first husband died, but after 6 months said husband returned, very much still alive, only to disappear again after a day. Mr Peacocke refused to allow his wife to leave him and they came to England and have been living as husband and wife, but, of course, bigamously.

Dr Wortle, to the surprise even of his wife, refuses to condemn the couple, even though his school, relationship with his bishop and personal standing all suffer. The distinction between refusing to condemn and not even acknowledging that wrong has been done (because this is more or less the position Dr Wortle takes, claiming he would have done the same) is pointed out by a fellow clergyman, Mr Puddicombe. Mrs Wortle is very amusing in her complete inability to imagine herself ever being in Mrs Peacocke's position. This being Trollope, it is all resolved happily, but I am deducting half a star for the Mary Wortle/Lord Carstairs romance, which is underwritten and completely unnecessary. ( )
  pgchuis | Sep 27, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Trollopeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Halperin, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rae, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rowland, AngelaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skilton, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, TimothyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Rev. Jeffrey Wortle, DD, was a man much esteemed by others, - and by himself.
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Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) was born in London to a bankrupt barrister father and a mother who, as a well-known writer, supported the family. Trollope enjoyed considerable acclaim both as a novelist and as a senior civil servant in the Post Office. He published more than forty novels and many short stories that are regarded by some as among the greatest of nineteenth-century fiction.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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