Friday, December 2, 2011

The Warden

The Warden, Anthony Trollope

Another Trollope has made it onto my reading list! Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) wrote the Chronicles of Barsetshire, a series depicting ecclesiastical life in England in the 1800s. This one, The Warden is the first in the series.

You might wonder how easy it is to read a book written in 1855. The book I read was wonderfully edited by Geoffrey Harvey and is well annotated to explain the references that Trollope uses, mostly ecclesiastical, political or literary comments on his day. It takes more work than a modern writer because you have to think about the language a little more, which means you read it more slowly. However I think it’s easier to read than a Jane Austen.

It is witty, clever, and very insightful. His comments on the clergy, marriage, politicians and the power of the news are just as entertaining today as they would have been to his original readers.

The Warden is Rev. Harding, the caretaker of a small poorhouse, designed by a will to take care of older men at the end of their days. As part of the position, he draws a very comfortable salary. As a local reformer (and courtier of his daughter) of the church rallies against him, decrying the church’s abuse of position and power, he is left is a moral quandary of whether or not he is entitled to the income and how to proceed as a result. At the same time, he is bullied by his archdeacon (also his son-in-law), who strongly believes all privilege of the church of England is the right of its clergymen.

Here is a taste for you.

His comments on newspapers and their editors (Tom Towers is the editor and the Jupiter is the main paper of the day):
“[Tom Towers] loved to sit silent in a corner of his club and listen to the loud chatterings of politicians, and to think how they were all in his power – how he could smite the loudest of them, were it worth his while to raise his pen for such a purpose… Ministers courted him, though perhaps they knew not his name; bishops feared him; judges doubted their own verdicts unless he confirmed them; and generals, in their councils of war, did not consider more deeply what the enemy would do, that what the Jupiter would say… It is possible that Tom Towers considered himself the most important man in Europe; and so he walked on from day to day, studiously striving to look a man, but knowing within his breast that he was a God.” (p168)
Describing the archdeacon:
The archdeacon took up his shining new clerical hat, and put on his black clerical gloves, and looked, heavy, respectable, decorous, and opulent, a decided clergyman of the church of England, every inch of him. (p210-11)

I’m not going to read all 6 novels straight away, but will take them in small doses when I feel like thinking a bit more through my fiction reading.

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