Tag Archives: Anthony Trollope

Some Thoughts on The Warden by Anthony Trollope

I was emailing a friend who has read quite a bit of Trollope and he remarked that this author’s novels are rather entertaining but when one closes the last page of some of his tales, they are soon forgotten.  After reading his messages about Trollope, and also seeing a thread on literary Twitter about The Warden,  I was very eager to give Trollope a try for myself.  I have rather mixed feelings about this first novel; some parts of it were amusing but overall I was a bit underwhelmed with my first experience in Barsetshire.

No one in Trollope’s narrative, which story involves an attempt at economic reformation of the Church,  is spared his sarcasm and ridicule.  The Warden, a kind, old man who lives with his daughter Elenor, has served his position as leader of Barchester hospital that cares for poor, elderly, retired, working class men who would otherwise be homeless.  It was established in the benefactor’s will in the 15th century that, in exchange for his minimal work, the Warden receives a yearly salary of 800 pounds and the use of a comfortable, some might even say lavish, home.  Reformers, led by a local doctor named John Bold, believe that the old bedesmen living at the hospital ought to receive a larger share of the income from the hospital’s estate.  When lawyers, other reformers, and the newspaper weigh in on the matter, the Warden is, rather unfairly,  made out to be a prime example of the greed of the clergy who take money from the poor in order to live in the lap of luxury.

The archdeacon, also the son-in-law of the Warden, is satirized by Trollope as a prime example of the Church clerics who will defend this institution at any cost:

Though doubt and hesitation disturbed the rest of our poor warden, no such weakness perplexed the nobler breast of his son-in-law.  As the indomitable cock preparing for the combat sharpens his spurs, shakes his feathers, and erects his comb, so did the archdeacon arrange his weapons for the coming war, without misgiving and without fear.  That he was fully confident of the justice of his cause let no one doubt.  Many a man can fight his battle with good courage, but with a doubting conscience; such as not the case with Dr. Grantly.  He did not believe in the Gospel with more assurance than he did in the sacred justice of all ecclesiastical revenues.

The reformers are equally a target of ridicule in Trollope’s tale.  John Bold, who had good intentions when he stirred up the whole controversy and genuinely wanted to help out the poor, old bedesmen, is easily swayed to put the matter aside because of love.  Bold is courting the Warden’s daughter, Eleanor, and when Eleanor pleads with her lover to put aside the case against the hospital and her father, he is very quick to oblige:

‘I would give her my soul, if it would serve her,’ said Bold still addressing his sister; ‘everything I have is hers, if she will accept it; my house, my heart, my all; every hope of my breast is centred in her: her smiles are sweeter to me than the sun, and when I see her in sorrow as she now is, every nerve in my body suffers.  No man can love better than I love her.’

Even though Trollope makes Bold seem a bit of a fool by giving up his attempt at reform for a woman, I was glad that Bold made this decision.  The sappy, romantic in me was glad Bold chose love over a law suit.

Trollope goes on and on poking fun at various parties involved in the attempt to redistribute the Warden’s salary among the bedesmen.  But the book ends on a rather sad note when it is the Warden and the old men at the hospital who suffer the most from the fight between the clergy and the reformers.  Although they are themselves not entirely blameless in the matter, it is their lives that are most negatively affected by the arguments of more important and influential men.

Despite my mixed feelings, I will continue with the Barsetshire Chronicles.  My friend, who I mentioned above, did remark that Barchester Towers, the next book in the series, is definitely worth a “quick spin through the eyeballs.”

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Review: Christmas at Thompson Hall And Other Christmas stories by Anthony Trollope

My favorite Christmas story to read around the holidays is A Christmas Carol by Dickens.  But this year I was looking for something new and came across this wonderful collection of Christmas short stories by Anthony Trollope.

My Review:

Christmas StoriesIf you are looking for some lighthearted, warm and entertaining stories to read this holiday season, then I highly recommend this collection of Christmas stories by Trollope.  In each one there is a misunderstanding, where human pride gets in the way.  But, due the fact that the setting is Christmas time, these misunderstandings are quickly forgiven.

The title story, Christmas at Thompson Hall, is my favorite of the collection.  In this tale, a husband and wife are traveling back to England to spend Christmas with the wife’s family in her ancestral home, Thompson Hall.  The couple usually spends Christmas in France, but the wife is determined to make it back to England by Christmas Eve this year and is dragging along her reluctant husband on the journey.  While they are at a hotel in Paris, they accidentally meet the wife’s soon-to-be brother-in-law.  The circumstances under which these new relatives meet, however, is rather embarrassing and hysterical.

Two of the stories tell of young couples in love whose pride is getting in the way of their happiness.  In Christmas at Kirkby Cottage, Maurice Archer mistakenly says to his beloved that “Christmas is a bore.”  Can Isabel forgive Maurice for saying such a crass thing about a holiday which she holds so dear?  The Mistletoe Bough has a similar plot in which a man and woman in love are brought together for Christmas and must decide if they can get over their past transgressions.

I found The Two Generals interesting due to the setting of the American Civil War.  I have never read a story about The Civil War written by a British author, so I found Trollope’s perspective enlightening.  Two brothers, who grew up in Kentucky, each find themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield.  They say some regretful words to each other before they depart on Christmas.  But can another holiday force these the brothers to set aside their differences and put family first?

These stories are an easy and delightful read and just the thing to get us all in the Christmas spirit.  Happy Holidays!

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Filed under Short Stories