Barsetshire Towers

by Anthony Trollope

Other authorsFrederick Page (Editor), Edward Ardizzone (Illustrator), Michael Sadleir (Editor), James R. Kincaid (Introduction)
Hardcover, 1980

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : Oxford University Press, 1989, c1980.

Description

After the death of old Dr. Grantly, a bitter struggle begins over who will succeed him as Bishop of Barchester. And when the decision is finally made to appoint the evangelical Dr. Proudie, rather than the son of the old bishop, Archdeacon Grantly, resentment and suspicion threaten to cause deep divisions within the diocese. Trollope's masterly depiction of the plotting and back-stabbing that ensues lies at the heart of one of the most vivid and comic of his Barsetshire novels, peopled by such very different figures as the saintly Warden of Hiram's Hospital, Septimus Harding, the ineffectual but well-meaning new bishop and his terrifying wife, and the oily chaplain Mr. Slope who has designs on Mr. Harding's daughter.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
Barchester Towers, published in 1857, is the second of Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire novels and probably the most famous. On the face of it, the plot seems a bit dull; the high and low church factions of the Church of England struggle for power within the fictional cathedral city of Barchester. Alongside the religious and political intrigues there are domestic subterfuges that are somewhat reminiscent of Austen. And that's it. I enjoy classics and length is not usually a problem for me, but for the first hundred pages or so I did find it something of a struggle to keep reading.

But I'm glad I gave heed to the Trollope fans and persevered, because once Trollope gets all his pieces set things do start moving. Not in a spectacular or dramatic way, but as outside events begin changing the relationships, I found myself drawn in. Despite his very-much-present authorial opinions, Trollope draws his characters with a light hand and drops little truths about them so casually. In one passage he says of Mr. Harding and his daughter Eleanor that "there was little confidence between them, though neither of them knew why it should be so." This so perfectly describes a relationship in my own life that I just stopped at that sentence to marvel over Trollope's insight into how we interact with the people we love.

Trollope always takes pains to defend his characters (at least, the ones he likes) in the eyes of his readers. I'm still not sure why I don't think Mr. Arabin a complete cad for his attendance on Signora Neroni, but so it is. Trollope makes him too sympathetic to admit of such a judgment. But on the other hand, Trollope makes sure we know his distaste for characters like Mr. Slope. Though Dr. Proudie is indicted for his weakness, next to Mr. Slope he seems quite benign and we, like Dr. Grantly, feel rather inclined to give him a pat on the head.

Trollope definitely has a fascination with the idea of the termagant wife. In The Warden the strong wife is Mrs. Grantly, and she wields her power wisely. The nightcap/bedroom discussions are so amusing. But in Barchester Towers we see wifely power gone wrong in Mrs. Proudie, whose domination of her husband — while quite funny — is also a bit sad. Despite this, I never could dislike Mrs. Proudie. She's too much fun in her battles with the odious Mr. Slope.

One of the fascinating things about Trollope's style (not that I'm an expert; I've only read this and The Warden thus far) is his approach to the relationship between the author and reader. Trollope openly scorns the devices many authors employ to heighten suspense and keep their readers gasping until the denouément — which is in such cases, he maintains, always a disappointment. He puts it so gracefully: "Our doctrine is that the author and reader should move along together in full confidence with each other" (127). I think readers do like to be tricked sometimes (how else would the mystery genre survive?), but reading an author who so frankly tells you right at the start that the heroine is not going to marry either of her fulsome suitors is a nice change.

Though I quite liked the novel, none of this is effusive praise. I have enjoyed the first two Barsetshire novels, but there is something so mild about the sensibility and humor that I respond to it in kind. Trollope is not an author to recommend to a reader new to classics; he requires patience and the ability to see small events as big to the characters living them. There are no flashy special effects in a Trollope novel, I'm finding — and the sensation is pleasant.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
It’s been over two hundred years since his death, but I’ve finally made acquaintances with Anthony Trollope. Happily, he was such a prolific author, I will have many opportunities to get to know him really well and I am pretty much ecstatic about the prospect. Barchester Towers was such a delight that I will be in for the long haul, reading through his oeuvre.

In the second book in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series, the action picks up some five years after the conclusion of the previous book, The Wardenand many of the same characters appear. The inclusion of some new, rather dynamic characters adds tremendous interest and propels the action forward in unexpected ways.

For the uninitiated, perhaps a little information about what Trollope’s themes involve in these first two books. Heavy doses of the differences between the High and Low church dominate the narrative, just as it raged at that time in the 1850s in England. I know what you’re thinking….could anything be more borrringgg? Well if that was all Trollope talked about, it certainly would not hold my, OK anyone’s, interest, for very long. Fortunately, he has created a cast of characters that is nothing short of brilliant: complex, fully fleshed, three-dimensional characters that provided the necessary fireworks when they interacted. For instance, take the thoroughly slimy Obadiah Slope (with a Dickensian name like that, you know right away he is beneath contempt). He’s new to the cathedral town, and brings with him new, and bleak ideas, that he tries to push on the locals through his role as chaplain to the (also new), henpecked and bullied Bishop Proudie, whose nagging wife has the kind of irritating personality that makes it so easy to imagine her as the true Bishop, rather then her diffident and easily intimidated husband. Everything of any consequence flows through her. There’s no going around this over-sized personality and the one time that Slope tries to, he discovers his powers are completely ineffective.

Add to the mix the completely dysfunctional Stanhope family, recently forced back from a 12 year stint in Italy where Bishop Stanhope was recovering from a sore throat(!?). Mother, father and three adult children, they provide unending glimpses into the reasons why this family is in for a rude awakening at some point, as resources quickly diminish, and no one seems to want to figure out how to acquire, well, a living. Eldest daughter Charlotte manages the household and realizes she has the hopeless task of getting her indolent brother Bertie married to the lovely and wealthy widow Eleanor Bold and she goes about the task diligently. It’s not important to her whether or not her unmotivated but charming, brother has any interest in getting married. But Trollope created perhaps his most fascinating character when he created Charlotte and Bertie’s sister Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni. She’s left her abusive husband, responsible for her inability to walk, and returned home to live with her parents. She is fully aware of her beauty and flirts with any man who comes within striking distance of her couch, where she rules her world, leaving fawning men in the wake of her powerful personality. The fact that she feels the need to be carried around just adds to the mystique.

The local high church members are no match for the flamboyance of the interlopers and make up the solid citizen brigade. They are, for the most part, warm, loving characters who struggle to understand what’s happening to their quiet little cathedral town. Trollope puts everyone together and stirs the pot and the proverbial sparks fly. There’s a love story, a comeuppance or three, misunderstandings galore, a good men are hard to find scenario…well you get the idea. And all told with ironic humor that often had me laughing out loud.

”The features of Mrs. Stanhope’s character were even less plainly marked than those of her lord. The far niente of her Italian life had entered into her very soul, and brought her to regard a state of inactivity as the only earthly good. In manner and appearance she was exceedingly prepossessing…Her dress was always perfect: she never dressed but once a day, and never appeared till between three and four; but when she did appear, she appeared at her best. Whether the toil rested partly with her, or wholly with her handmaid, it is not for such a one as the author to even imagine….But when we have said that Mrs. Stanhope knew how to dress and used her knowledge daily, we have said all. Other purpose in life she had none.” (Page 91)

As readers, we’ve steeled ourselves for the most gut-wrenching, depression-inducing, tear-jerking endings imaginable because modern fiction has led us to that expectation. But there’s much to be said for the good, old-fashioned, happy ending. It happens so seldom in my reading anymore that it takes me completely unawares when it does occur. I was happy to be reminded of the satisfaction that accompanies that development. Very highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member ChocolateMuse
Quiet, gently satirical, occasionally theatrical. The villains are very nasty, and the heroes and heroines are mostly very virtuous, like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. Yet slimy Mr Slope has his human weaknesses which make us bear with him more easily; and even Eleanor Bold, our beautiful heroine, develops some redeeming faults.

This is the kind of story where you take sides and cheer your side on. You also become immersed in the complicated social world of Barchester, and discover the very human side of the High and Low Church of that time and place. An interesting comparison is brought out between the self-serving, power-hungry chaplain Mr Slope (on the villain side), and the self-centred, well-meaning, rich and worldly Archdeacon Grantly (on the 'good-guy' side). Trollope is not actually giving us any 'shoulds' and 'should nots' regarding the clergy; rather, he is presenting us with the range of people one finds anywhere - and these just happen to belong to the clergy.

The Stanhopes are a wonderful set of characters, and do not fall into the villain vs hero category at all. Never could you find a more self-serving, careless, clever set of people than these, so manipulative and yet so fascinating, so selfish and yet so likeable. Bertie's proposal is Class A, as is Madeleine's final scene with Mr Slope and her showdown with the Countess. The book is worth reading for these characters alone.

I enjoyed this book very much. It makes comments on society without being a rant, or indeed, a deep groundbreaking study. It's a book set in an immersive world, about conflicting values in religion and society, personality clashes, self-interest, and right and wrong according to different people.

I haven't even touched on Mrs Proudie and her husband, or on the delightfully eccentric Miss Thorne, or the scholarly but innocent Mr Arabin, or the Quiverfuls and their fourteen children (a fact we are told rather too often, which was the only thing that annoyed me in the book). All these characters and more are well worth meeting. I look forward to moving onto Dr Thorne, the next in the series.
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LibraryThing member catherinestead
Wonderful! I absolutely devoured this book.

I was massively entertained by the Machiavellian manoeuvrings of the oily and ambitious Mr Slope and the autocratic Mrs Proudie as they each sought to capture the bishop and become the acknowledged éminence grise of the diocese - for all the world as though it were an established diocesan office and the only thing to settle was who would occupy it. (Although would either be happy with that title? What would the Low church Evangelical equivalent be?)

Leaving aside the wannabe éminences grises, the other characters were also splendidly rendered. There's a realism to all of Trollope's characters that I love. They are very human: neither wholly bad nor wholly good, but instead full of ambitions, foibles, faults and graces which make them very complex and very realistic.

The plot is straightforward - the arrival of a new bishop causes conflict between High and Low church parties in Barchester - but the twists and turns as the characters interact make it very entertaining. The writing is wonderful - vivid and rich, with lots of literary and political allusions. (I recommend reading an edition with notes - especially if you're unfamiliar with the Church of England, Victorian politics, and the history and literature of ancient Greece and Rome - and keeping a dictionary close at hand.) It also has a warm, conversational tone and no small amount of humour and tension, despite the serious moral, political and social comment woven into the narrative throughout.

I think that that there are several tests of great literature, and in my opinion all the social comment and technical linguistic skill in the world are of little merit if the book is easily put down and forgotten about. I finished this book just before 2 o'clock this morning because there was NO way on God's green earth that I was putting it down and going to sleep without having reached the end. Not negotiable, no matter what time the alarm was set for. Sleep? Irrelevant. Who needs to sleep when there are books like this to read? The narrative was compelling, the writing addictive and the comment insightful. This is great literature and a great read.… (more)
LibraryThing member SandDune
I loved this book. Loved it, loved it, loved it! It made me laugh out loud and cry and was absolutely everything a book should be. While I enjoyed [The Warden] greatly [Barchester Towers], although dealing with many of the same characters and something of the same concerns, is even better.

Old Bishop Grantly is dying, and his son the Archdeacon has every expectation of being appointed his successor. Every expectation that is, as long as the present government remains in place, but the present government looks more unsteady by the day. Eventually missing the appointment by a matter of hours the disappointed Archdeacon must come to terms with serving a new bishop, and what is worse, a bishop who has low church tendencies which are an anathema to his high church leanings. And worse still, it is not only the bishop Mr Proudie that the Archdeacon must contend with, but with two other aspirants to power within the diocese: Mrs Proudie the bishop's wife, and Mr Slope, his ambitious personal chaplain. And so there follows a Machiavellian power struggle that would be worthy of any Rennaisance prince. The first meeting of the combatants in the bishop's study gives a taste of what is to come:

'There were four persons there, each of whom considered himself the most important person in the diocese -himself, indeed, or herself, as Mrs Proudie was one of them -and with such a difference of opinion it was not probable that they would get on pleasantly together. The bishop himself wore the visible apron, and trusted mainly to that -to that and his title, both being facts which could not be overlooked. The archdeacon knew his subject and really understood the business of bishoping, which the others did not, and this was his strong ground. Mrs Proudie had her sex to back her, and her habit of command, and was nothing daunted by the high tone of Dr Grantly's face and figure. Mr Slope had only himself and his own courage and tact to depend on, but he nevertheless was perfectly self-assured, and did not doubt but that he should soon get the better of weak men who trusted so much to externals, as both bishop and archdeacon appeared to do.

And the archdeacon's fury at the machinations of Mr Slope are compounded when it seems that a close connection of his is looking rather more favourably on him. Is Mr Harding's younger daughter Eleanor considering marriage with the hated enemy? Rather conveniently left a rich young widow with £1,000 a year following the early death of her husband John Bold, Eleanor can now be considered a great catch for an ambitious but impecunious young clergyman, or any other young gentleman with need of a steady income.

Once again, the great strength of this book is not in the plot, but with the host of marvellous characters with which Trollope fills his pages. And not only in the main characters, the lesser characters can be equally delightful. The beautiful but crippled Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni, whose only delight is to snare men into her web as a spider might do, and her brother Bertie Stanhope who has failed at most careers (and religions) known to man, are both delightful. So I will be continuing with my Trollope experiences after just a very brief break to catch my breath!
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LibraryThing member DieFledermaus
I’d read The Warden before Barchester Towers and thought it was a nice book, not really something that stuck with me, but a more or less good read. This one, however, is one of my all-time favorites. Went on to read the whole series, the Palliser series – now working on the others. The well-developed characters, mellifluous prose and Trollope’s good-natured sense of humor distinguish the second in the Barsetshire series.

As in The Warden, the plot involves minor Anglican appointments in the town of Barchester. Familiar characters also turn up – Mr. Harding, the saintly ex-warden, his newly widowed daughter Eleanor and his son-in-law, the imperious archdeacon Dr. Grantly. After Dr. Grantly’s father the bishop dies, he expects the position but instead it goes to an outsider, Dr. Proudie. The appointment leads to a split in the town between Grantly and his conservative if somewhat indifferent High Churchmen and Proudie with the fervent evangelical Low Church faction. Actually, it isn’t Bishop Proudie – amiable and conflict-phobic – leading the charge, but his memorably bossy wife Mrs. Proudie and the great Mr. Slope – her slimy, hypocritical, hubris-filled chaplain. Of course, with two such strong-willed personalities, conflict is bound to arise. Romantic troubles plague Eleanor, courted by Slope, poor dandy Bertie Stanhope and Grantly adherent Mr. Arabin.

But the plot isn’t the important thing in a Trollope novel – something he states in one of his comic asides –

“And what can be the worth of that solicitude which a peep into the third volume can utterly dissipate? What the value of those literary charms which are absolutely destroyed by their enjoyment?”

The author even goes so far as to inform readers of Eleanor’s choice in marriage at the beginning. Henry James disliked Trollope’s asides and his insertion of himself as the narrator, but that’s one of the best parts, especially to a fan of more-represented-later metafiction (not counting Tristram Shandy). Trollope’s smooth, comfortable prose and his comic take on mundane matters are what set apart his books. The author describes Slope and Grantly’s conflict as an epic war, gently mocking the militant stance immediately taken up. Signora Neroni, Bertie’s sister, provides more overt humor with her excessive love of drama and the fact that she has to be carried everywhere on her sofa. There’s a psychological depth to his characters, with each minute emotion described. His isn’t the inner monologues of Virginia Woolf or Henry James’ texture of consciousness or the clause-laden, exhaustively described, nuanced, run-on prose of Proust or even the complicated erudition of fellow Victorian George Eliot (all of which I like), but solid detailed descriptions that almost hide the skill in constructing them.

For example, Mr. Harding’s ambivalence about Eleanor and Mr. Slope – he almost hates Slope and genuinely hoped the marriage would not go through, but recognized that there was nothing shameful socially in a union. To Grantly, he half-defended his daughter, wanting to believe she’d never consent to a marriage but trying to say it was appropriate in case it did happen. Similar anguish is endured by Eleanor, the Grantlys and Mr. Arabin as they attempt to talk civilly but avoid the mention of marriage. Trollope is remarkably effective in his sweet and sour thoughts of Eleanor gradually recovering from her husband’s death

"How much kinder is God to us than we are willing to be to ourselves! At the loss of every dear face, at the last going of every well beloved one, we all doom ourselves to an eternity of sorrow, and look to waste ourselves away in an ever-running fountain of tears. How seldom does such grief endure! How blessed is the goodness which forbids it to do so! 'Let me ever remember my living friends, but forget them as soon as they are dead,' was the prayer of a wise man who understood the mercy of God. Few perhaps would have the courage to express such a wish, and yet to do so would only be to ask for that release from sorrow, which a kind Creator almost always extends to us."

or Mr. Arabin’s disillusionment after devoting himself to religion at the expense of all else

"Not for wealth, in its vulgar sense, had he ever sighed; not for the enjoyment of rich things had he ever longed; but for the allotted share of worldly bliss, which a wife, and children, and
happy home could give him, for that usual amount of comfort which he had ventured to reject as unnecessary for him, he did now feel that he would have been wiser to search."

Really, the whole book is a barrage of good lines.
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LibraryThing member triminieshelton
Loved every page of this beautifully written novel about the plotting and backstabbing that go on in an Anglican diocese in turmoil. So unlike the placid clergy of Austen's novels, Barchester's clerics are political animals, fervent in their ideas about the religious reforms of the day, and ambitious for the good life as well. Some unforgettable characters include the Rev. Obadiah Slope, Mrs. Bishop Proudie, and the Signora Neroni, each with a different agenda and the craft and cunning to see it through. I laughed out loud in places as I recognized some human foibles all too familiar today. I intend to follow up with the other Barchester novels in the series and look forward to hours of immersion in a time and place gone by yet still alive in the writings of a novelistic genius.… (more)
LibraryThing member startingover
I remember first reading this novel when I was at college, doing my A-levels. Choosing Trollope for 'relaxation' might seem strange, perhaps, but really there is something very easeful about this book in particular. The major concerns of the characters are in some ways very modern concerns - the struggle for power, for career advancement (albeit the careers here are all religious rather than secular). Really, some things never change - "A man is nothing now unless he has within him a full appreciation of the new era; an era in which it would seem that neither honesty nor truth is very desirable, but in which success is the only touchstone of merit."

It's then a puzzle to me why my old English teacher hated Trollope so much. The very name made her shudder. Like many people I think she saw him as rather complacent, a bit of a lightweight. I don't agree: I think Trollope is much darker, and much more perceptive, than many would give him credit for. "It is hardly too much to say that we all of us occasionally speak of our dearest friends in a manner in which those dearest friends would very little like to hear themselves mentioned; and that we nevertheless expect that our dearest friends shall invariably speak of us as though they were blind to all our faults, but keenly alive to every shade of our virtues."

And who could forget characters like the indomitable Bishop's wife, Mrs Proudie, or her husband's unctuous chaplain, Mr Slope? I think my favourite character, though, is Madeline Neroni, daughter of the Canon Mr Stanhope. Madeline is a beautiful woman but unable to walk. From her sofa she holds court, imperious and heartless, disdainful of the men who fall at her feet. She is the supreme cynic: "Imogen was true, but how was she rewarded? Her lord believed her to be the paramour of the first he who came near her in his absence. Desdemona was true and was smothered. Ophelia was true and went mad. There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel."

At the end of the book, though, she performs one altruistic act, when she advises the dutiful (but rather dull) Eleanor of the true nature of Mr Arabin, who loves Eleanor but is unable to express it satisfactorily. At the very end of the story, both the Stanhopes and Mr Slope have gone, and I can't help thinking that Barchester will be a much less interesting place without them, for all the harm they did and tried to do. [Oct 2004]
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LibraryThing member AMQS
This will surely rank among my favorite reads of the year. Who knew that the manoeuvrings, machinations, and intricacies of 19th century church politics could be so utterly compelling? But that's really only a small part of the story: Mr. Trollope's true gifts to his readers are the characters so fully realized, and the insights into them and into the human condition that the author shares directly with the reader. And as so many others have written, the story is performed to perfection by the incomparable Simon Vance.

The novel opens as the Bishop of Barchester lays dying. His son, Archdeacon Grantly, hopes to be appointed to the position, but it is awarded instead to Dr. Proudie, who arrives in Barchester with his formidable wife and her protege, Mr. Slope. This new contingent's top-down, low church declarations and insinuations rankle the established high church clergy, and lead the outspoken Dr. Grantly to wage a war of sorts with the Bishop's set. Meanwhile, the Bishop himself has been effectively neutered by his wife, who looks forward to reigning as de-facto Bishop, and by his chaplain Mr. Slope, who has the same ambitions. Initially, Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope are of the same mind, however eventually, Barchester Close proves not to be big enough for the both of them, and they wage their own bitter war for the Bishop's obedience. The plot, however, revolves mainly around gentle Mr. Harding (the father-in-law of Archdeacon Grantly), who may or may not be restored to the post of Warden of Hiram's Hospital he relinquished in The Warden, and his daughter Eleanor, recently widowed and in possession of such a fortune as to make her a highly desirable prospective wife. Among Eleanor's suitors are the odious Mr. Slope, and the hapless Ethelbert Stanhope, whose father Dr. Stanhope is recalled to Barchester by the new regime from his 12 year-long convalescence from a sore throat in Italy. The entire Stanhope family returns to Barchester, including Mrs. Stanhope, who rarely appears before dinnertime, daughter Charlotte, who keeps the family running, the idle son Ethelbert, and daughter Madeline, the self-titled La Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni, who following a marriage and crippling accident now reclines on a sofa full-time and ensnares men like a funnel spider. Eleanor's connections with Mr. Slope, which in her mind are slight, enrage the Grantly faction, and the perpetuated and perhaps willful misunderstanding provides much of the book's conflict.

The book was just a delight from start to finish, with the author and the reader sharing the great comedy the ridiculous characters provide, and their small and large sufferings, which the author draws with great compassion. Along with the story are pearls of wisdom from which the reader can learn about marital harmony (obedience to and compliance with the wife in all things), and the fate of the characters in the hands of the novelist as anticipated by the reader ("And here, perhaps, it may be allowed to the novelist to explain his views on a very important point in the art of telling tales. He ventures to reprobate that system which goes so far to violate all proper confidence between the author and his readers, by maintaining nearly to the end of the third volume a mystery as to the fate of their favorite personage."). This last is used to assure the reader early on that Eleanor Bold will not make herself a fool by marrying either of her two dubious suitors, though the wooing and its attendant gossip occupy much of the narrative.

I think LTers will appreciate my favorite moment from listening to this book: yesterday I was in the car with my 11 year-old, who was thoroughly engrossed in her own book. She is one of those readers who, when so occupied is completely deaf to the world, so I asked her if it would be okay if I listened to my book. She said it would, but not two minutes later she exclaimed, "Mom, that's Simon Vance!!!" Our very first foray into audiobooks was years and years ago when I bought a couple of the Green Knowe books. I had not remembered that they were narrated by Mr. Vance, but my daughter recognized him instantly, and proceeded to tell me what a wonderful performer he was! That was the cherry on top, as it were, of the delightful treat that was Barchester Towers.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
If you think church politics is a dull topic, you'll think again after reading Barchester Towers. The death of a bishop and the appointment of his replacement throws the cathedral town of Barchester into turmoil. Its clerics take sides and jockey for position. High church clerics are pitted against those with evangelical leanings. The bishop's authority is up for grabs as his personal chaplain and his wife battle for the position of puppeteer to the bishop/puppet. The chaplain, Mr. Slope, is every bit as smarmy and odious as Dickens' Uriah Heep.

I love the way that Trollope uses names to represent character. Mr. and Mrs. Quiverful are the parents of 14 children. Mrs. Lookaloft thinks of herself more highly than she ought. Trollope also excels at descriptions of character, as in these passages describing the bishop's wife:

It is not my intention to breathe a word against the character of Mrs. Proudie, but still I cannot think that with all her virtues she adds much to her husband's happiness. The truth is that in matters domestic she rules supreme over her titular lord, and rules with a rod of iron. Nor is this all. Things domestic Dr. Proudie might have abandoned to her, if not voluntarily, yet willingly. But Mrs. Proudie is not satisfied with such home dominion, and stretches her power over all his movements, and will not even abstain from things spiritual. In fact, the bishop is hen-pecked.

In truth, Mrs. Proudie was all but invincible; had she married Petruchio, it may be doubted whether that arch wife-tamer would have been able to keep her legs out of those garments which are presumed by men to be peculiarly unfitted for feminine use.

Barchester Towers picks up where The Warden left off. It isn't absolutely necessary to read The Warden first, but it would be helpful to do so.
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
The death of the bishop of the fictional town of Barchester sets in motion a pitched battle of religion in this book by Anthony Trollope. One one side is the new bishop, his domineering wife, and his ambitious new chaplain, Mr. Slope. On the other side is practically every other member of the clergy in the town, from the dean, the archbishop, and the entire chapter.

Entangled in the dispute is mild Mr. Harding, formerly warden of the Barchester hospital, providing bed and care for 12 worthy aged men. A scandal forces him from his position and threatens to split the town in half. Mr. Harding's widowed daughter Mrs. Bold is another focus of the story, this time providing the romance. With three eligible men seeking her hand - or is it her fortune - she remains oblivious until her hand is almost literally forced.

I was surprised to find myself really enjoying this book. The beginning was rather rough, started as it does with solely ecclesiastical matters. I know nothing at all of the organization of the Anglican church and was bewildered by the politics involved. But once the personalities behind the offices began to emerge, I was really hooked. The style is rather old-fashioned, but not so much that I couldn't read it quickly. Highly recommended - lots of fun.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
After The Warden, another excellent visit to Barsetshire, and another book I had a difficult time putting down. Trollope improves here on his gentle wittiness, absolutely delightful small-scale ecclesiastical Machiavellian scheming, and complicated human dynamics.

I'm quite enjoying the way Trollope interacts with the reader in these books, too: it almost always made me smile. And he continues to create some extremely memorable characters, from the delightfully odd Miss Thorne to the sneaky creature Mr. Slope and the not-to-be-messed-with Mrs. Proudie.

Looking forward to heading back to Barsetshire before too long ...
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LibraryThing member Cariola
I enjoyed this second installment of the Barchester Chronicles much more than the first, The Warden, even though many of the same characters (Mr. Harding and his daughters) continue the story. Trollope has a unique way of getting inside the minutiae of Victorian society and behavior, and he does so with both affection and humor. I'll definitely continue reading the series.… (more)
LibraryThing member Vigneau
Trollope likes to walk you through his books hand in hand. It took me a while to get used to this style but once I did I began to appreciate his work. This novel is a gentle read especially after I'd just finished "Girl with a dragon tattoo". I can't think of two more diametrically opposed novels. I think I needed a rest after Stieg Larsson's book.

This is the second novel in the series and should be read after The Warden. We meet the same characters a bit later. The've now become old friends - Trollope's characterisation is so good. There's not much of a plot but what there is Trollope makes the most of. However this doesn't matter - the strength of the novel is in the way the characters interplay with each other.

If I have a criticism it is that Trollope takes the easy way at the end and ties everything together in a happy ending for everyone. Even the odious Mrs Proudie and Slope don't lose out.

A good read. I'm already well into the third in the series - Dr Thorne.
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LibraryThing member VivienneR
Not nearly so serious as The Warden, this, the second in the Barsetshire series is liberally sprinkled with humour. Trollope's mastery with language ensures this will forever be a favourite. It's a story that is difficult to put aside and the characters, becoming old friends or foes as rendered, will remain with the reader for a long time. And no matter their disposition, those characters are so richly coloured that the reader can almost see them in person. My usual dislike of long, wordy books is withheld for Trollope who can entertain as much with his choice of words as with the action.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookworm12
I’m officially a Chronicles of Barsetshire convert and I have Eleanor Bold to thank for it. The character took a stand for herself and her father in The Warden, but it wasn’t until Barchester Towers that I really grew to love the fiery widow. She could be Lizzie Bennet if Darcy had (God forbid!) died after they were married.

Barchester Towers picks up a few years after The Warden. Eleanor has become a widow and now has a son. No one has taken over the wardenship that her father, Mr. Harding, left at the end of the first book. The race is on to see who will be named the new Warden and who will become the Dean in Barchester. We also meet a new cast of characters including the hapless Bertie Stanhope and his sister, the conniving Mr. Slope, the unhappily married Proudies and a vicar from Oxford, Francis Arabin.

In that same Pride and Prejudice vein, Obadiah Slope is Mr. Collins. The Bishop's chaplain is working hard to move up in the world, but he is just not a likeable character. Even when Eleanor is attempting to be kind to him, she still can’t make herself like him. He bases his search for a wife on income instead of love and so he sets his sights on the newly widowed Eleanor who is now a wealthy woman. In order to woo her he attempts to get her father’s wardenship back for him. Poor Reverend Quiverful has already been offered the wardenship, which would go a long way to feeding his 14 children.

Septimus Harding, the main character from The Warden, once again demonstrates his excellent character in this book. No matter what people offer him or what they tell him he deserves, in the end he always wants what is best for the community. He is such a kind man. Even when his daughter’s taste in gentlemen callers is being questioned, he makes his loyalties clear without yet knowing her thoughts. He stands by her and supports all of her actions. Eleanor’s relationship with her father is one of the highlights of the novel for me.

The thing I'm beginning to realize I love about Trollope's work is his collection of female characters. He creates vibrant women who are the real strength behind the weak or petty men they are married to. Mrs. Proudie might be a bit of a villain, but she's also a force to be reckoned with. Everyone in Barchester knows that her husband, the Bishop, isn’t the real decision-maker in their household. As he struggles with the question of who should get the wardenship, she makes the decision and moves forward with her choice without him.

Mrs. Quiverful does the same thing, but out of her concern for her children’s welfare. She sees her husband's unwillingness to fight for what she believes is rightfully theirs as weak and selfish. She decides to make her own plan and go about getting the wardenship for him.

My favorite female character, of course, is Eleanor Bold. She turns down multiple suitors who are after her money. She stands up to her stuffed shirt brother-in-law, Archdeacon Grantly and remains loyal to her father above all. She is at times righteous, sarcastic, and vulnerable, a fully realized character with a complicated range of emotions. We watch her fall in love and we root for her to end up with the right man. I've grown to admire her for her strength and principles throughout the first two books. In The Warden she was willing to give up her love for her fiancé in order to protect her family dignity. In this book she stands up for her right to privacy and freedom when Grantly believes her acquaintance with Slope is inappropriate. She doesn’t love Slope, but she’s furious that someone thinks they have the right to tell her who she can or can't associate with.

BOTTOM LINE: Just like The Warden, it took me a minute to get into this one, but once I did I loved it! Eleanor Bold is one of my favorite characters I’ve encountered in a long while. I hope she plays a role in the upcoming books as well!

“How many shades there are between love and indifference, and how little the graduated scale is understood!”

“Till we can become divine, we must be content to be human, lest in our hurry for change we sink to something lower.”
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LibraryThing member hjjugovic
Recommended if you enjoy Jane Austen. Trollope is actually funnier than Austen, and his characters are less black-and-white, more finely drawn. There is some rather stunning sexism which is perhaps appropriate from the era that produced the work but shocks nevertheless, perhaps because the story FEELS like an Austen, who never would have compared women (in a loving way, believe it or not) to parasites. I found it mostly easy to ignore, because the story was so fresh and delightful otherwise. He also has a fun way of going against the storytelling traditions of the times, calling himself out on it, and making the story work anyway. This was a surprising treat!… (more)
LibraryThing member MrsLee
Written in the 1850's, this story is about the peccadilloes of the local clergy and their families. Power struggles ensue, a romance or several, or not, misunderstandings galore. I found the humor in this story to be even better than Jane Austen. Very enjoyable and a fun read, though for those not used to the writing style of the day, it may be hard to get into. I love the characters and the way they are developed and described. They live and breathe.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jaylia3
Trollope seems to be having a lot of fun in this second novel of his Chronicles of Barsetshire series making it an entertaining, almost light, book for this reader in spite of the length and the somewhat heavy issue the plot revolves around--the heated battles between England’s low and high church clergy. The story is full of clever, often laugh-out loud asides by a very present, quite friendly, somewhat cozy omniscient narrator who frequently parses the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the characters rather than just reporting them.

Most of the main characters from The Warden, first book in the series, are back, and it’s part of the fun to see how they are getting on with their lives, but there are many new and wonderful additions too, including a bishop cowed by his wife and curate, the oily manipulative Mr. Slope, the steeped in ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition Thorne siblings, and the scheming Stanhope family fresh from Italy and full of continental ways. Trollope writes characters who can be silly, weak, selfish, stubborn, pompous, and irresponsible and still you feel some sympathy for them. Like many Victorian novels Barchester Towers is long, but the ending is perfect, with every character arc and plot thread resolving in a way that is highly satisfying.
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LibraryThing member hildeg
This is a love story as well as the story of the church politics of Barsetshire. Trollope shows great insights in human follies and power aspirations. I love his sense of humour as well.
LibraryThing member amymerrick
After reading "The Warden" (the precursor to "Barchester Towers") and the 800-page "The Way We Live Now" last year, I thought I might have overdosed on Trollope. But within a few chapters, I was hooked on this story of a little English parish and the small, yet significant, dramas of its inhabitants. Trollope is a master at poking fun at people's vanities. Much of the novel's plot centers around misunderstandings that could be easily resolved, if only the characters would be honest with one another -- but, of course, their pride prevents them. When the minor clerics are awaiting the death of the old dean of the cathedral, while secretly calculating their chances of getting his job, I was reminded of my own hypocrisies. And the failed, fumbled proposals by the suitors of Eleanor Bold are hilarious. Trollope's sly direct address of the reader adds a level of intimacy that makes you feel completely invested in his funny, complex, vivid world.… (more)
LibraryThing member UrbanRam
Barchester Towers follows on a few years later from The Warden, with the same major characters but a much larger cast. It is longer and more complicated in its plot, which allows for some masterful character development and some very funny moments. Trollope's asides to his reader and comments on his own characters are often hilarious. There are a few diversions on topics of the day which may seem irrelevant to a modern reader, but these are relatively short and do not veer too far away from the main interests. There is a wonderful contrast between the 'normal' characters, principally Mr Harding and his daughter Eleanor, and the 'grotesques', such as Mrs Proudie and especially Mr Slope. Although this is the more famous and popular of the two novels, I preferred The Warden, and if possible this should be read before Barchester Towers.… (more)
LibraryThing member Zumbanista
After a slow start due to the language and writing style, I enjoyed Barchester Towers very much. The plot is exquisitely interwoven with the many well-drawn characters coming together in the last third of the book. The humour and satire is gentle as we revisit characters from Trollope's prequel, The Warden, which isn't necessary to understanding this novel. Barchester Towers will not an easy read for many people, but this British classic is well worth the effort.… (more)
LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
Great stuff... wavered a bit at one point, this is a pretty long Trollope, but fun of course.... I'll eventually read all the Barsetshire books!
LibraryThing member mbmackay
Second in the Barchester chronicles series, and Trollope’s fifth novel. Still developing as a writer – for example there are lots of direct asides to the reader, many about novel-writing itself. Set in the country clergy class in the 1850’s, he has nailed his core constituency. This is even more apparent when compared to his brief and failed attempt at the voice of the rural tenant families at Miss Thorne’s party. A good book and good to read. Read December 2007… (more)

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