Barchester Towers

Barchester Towers

by Anthony Trollope

Trollope's comic masterpiece of plotting and backstabbing opens as the Bishop of Barchester lies on his deathbed.

It is the second book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire.

What People Think about "Barchester Towers"

The odious Mr. Slope slimes his way through the upper class elements of the church looking for power and patronage and love in a village where nothing ever happens.

Almost instantly HOLY (?) WAR is declared between resident clergymen (High Church) lead by Archdeacon Grantly, who got disappointed in his hope of becoming the new bishop after his fathers death, & Dr Proudies (the new bishop, Low Church) entourage, namely his formidable wife & his chaplain, Mr Obadiah Slope, a beneficiary of Mrs Proudies patronage. There is a contest for primacy in the diocese between Mrs Proudie & Mr Slope, because the hen-pecked Dr. Proudie is bishop only in name and so both strive to become the real power behind his ecclesiastical throne. What combatants are ever so eager as two brothers?" Also the insight into his characters is wonderful: the most memorable from this novel are Mr Slope, Mrs Proudie, Signora Neroni & Archdeacon Grantley. (That is also highly recommended.) And then there is the indomitable & staunch Mrs Proudie, wife to the bishop, uncrowned queen of her family & the diocese. there was a heart inside that stiff-ribbed bodice, though not, perhaps, of large dimensions, and certainly not easily accessible." The scenes where Mrs Proudie & Mr Slope are involved in a tug-of-war with the poor bishop as the rope are the funniest in the whole book.

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 writernamely, his pacing and the way in which he engages his readers right from the start in the conflicts and dramas of his dramatis personae. 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. While his other novels have a humor that is more covert, Barchester Towers is rare in Trollopes oeuvre in that it will actually cause one to laugh aloud: one wonders whyif not from realizing that such a treatment did not agree with his vision of the novelists dutiesTrollope abandoned the outrageously comic in his subsequent work.

Dr.Stanhopes,(everyone is a Dr. in the book)returns from Italy.His son, really a grownup kid,also arrives, Bertie, a lazy but charming man (third suitor).The pusillanimous new bishop ,is controlled by Mrs. Proudie, his wife.Conflict happens, when the "hospital" is to reopen.Who will become the warden?Rev. Harding, the former holder of the job and choice of Grantly.Quiverful, another clergyman and supported by Mrs. Proudie.An illuminating party, by rich landowners,Miss Thorne and her brother, is given.

After a minor rebellion, encouraged by the aforementioned Slope, he was brought safely back under his lady's thumb, and Trollope's comment on this was: "Oh, husbands, oh, my marital friends, what great comfort is there to be derived from a wife well obeyed." (I read that sentence out to my own husband, who laughed in fellow sympathy with the Bishop!) What I enjoy most of all though is Trollope's observation of behaviour and his psychology is spot on. Lady De Courcy was a wise woman, and therefore, having treated Miss Thorne very badly by staying away till three o'clock, she assumed the offensive and attacked Mr Thorne's roads. A man in the wrong knows that he must look to his weapons; his very weakness is his strength.

Accompanied by his domineering wife and ambitious chaplain, they thoroughly upset the way things are done in the sleepy cathedral town. A woman, too generally, has no other way of living." (The savagery, I love it.)

Anthony Trollope became one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era.