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Anthony Trollope

Barchester Towers

Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
This is the second novel in the series known as the 'Barchester Chronicles'. It is set in the fictional cathedral city of Barchester, where the advent of a new bishop, an Evangelical, precipitates a conflict with the prevailing High Church faction led by the Archdeacon, Dr Grantly. (This was a hot topic at the time.) Bishop Proudie is dominated by his wife and also by his chaplain, Mr Slope, who is initially in alliance with Mrs Proudie although the two soon fall out. Part of the comedy comes from the machinations of these two rivals to out-manouevre each other and gain control of events, but there is a large cast of other characters who enact numerous subplots.

In his autobiography Trollope says he enjoyed writing the book, and it has been a favourite among readers, even though Trollope's publisher, William Longman, at first declined it on the ground that much of it was full of "vulgarity and exaggeration". I certainly enjoyed reading it, to the point where I found myself actually laughing aloud at some of the scenes. One of these was the party given by Mrs Proudie to make the acquaintance of the clergy in 'her' new diocese; this quickly degenerated into pure farce. The other was the odious Mr Slope's proposal of marriage to a rich widow, which resulted in his having his face slapped. (Possibly these scenes are part of the 'vulgarity' that Mr Longman complained of.)

An entertaining read, then, that works well for the modern reader, although some of the ecclesiastical terms are likely to be unfamiliar to most. How many people today are clear about the meaning of 'prebendary' or 'preceptor'? And I find it interesting that Trollope introduces occasional Latin quotations, without translations. But these things don't hold up the narrative flow unduly and the dialogue is lively.

The book was first published in 1857. The characters of course travel locally by carriage or on horseback, although they go up to London by train.


%T Barchester Towers
%A Trollope, Anthony
%I The Project Gutenberg
%D 2002
%K fiction
%O kindle version, downloaded from Project Gutenberg 2020

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