Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Victorian Literature: Barchester Towers


Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope

Barchester Towers is the second book in Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire Chronicles. I enjoyed the first book, The Warden, a couple of years ago and have always meant to read the rest of the books. Barchester Towers was so enjoyable to read that now I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the books!

This particular story focuses almost entirely on the clerical population of Barsetshire. A new bishop is installed, and he is under the thumb of his wife and her chaplain, one Mr. Slope. Much of the story revolves around the question of who is to control Bishop Proudie and Mr. Slope's constant scheming to arrange matters according to his preferences. The old guard of Barsetshire is horrified by the new faction, but can do little to combat it. Meanwhile, Mr. Slope and a couple of other gentlemen are vying for the hand of the young widow Mrs. Bold (who was also in The Warden).

Quite a few of the names in Barsetshire are familiar to me, because I've read Angela Thirkell's novels for years. She took over the fictional county of Barsetshire in the 30's and wrote piles of humorous stories set there. They are a lot of fun--very comedy-of-manners--though I think they're only really worth reading until the end of World War II (Peace Breaks Out is the last good one, in my opinion). And Thirkell is an incurable snob. Anyway I recommend them, and once I'm done with Trollope I think I'll have to re-read a lot of them in order to find all the descendants and jokes that I never caught before.

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