The warden

by Anthony Trollope

Paper Book, 1989




New York : Oxford University Press, 1989.


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: The first of Anthony Trollope's works to receive widespread popular and critical acclaim, The Warden follows the career of Septimus Harding, the warden of an almshouse??an early form of subsidized housing for the poor??who is forced to adapt to looming social changes when a zealous young reformer comes on the scene. Confusion, crossed wires, and much hilarity ensue. A must-read for fans of witty social satire

User reviews

LibraryThing member brenzi
Absolutely delightful! Maybe because there is such a shortage of people with true moral character, but the eponymous warden, Septimus Harding, whose courage and sense of honor and fair play will not allow him to continue in his job, won my heart very early on in Trollope’s book that serves as an
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introductory volume to his well-known Chronicles of Barsetshire series.

Harding serves as the warden in an almshouse for 12 elderly men who have no source of income. His employment, as well as the maintenance of the twelve residents, was spelled out in a charitable bequest. John Bold decides to initiate a campaign to rectify what he sees as an injustice in the way the funds are disbursed especially the inflated amount that Harding receives for, what appears to be, very little toil. To complicate matters, Bold and Harding’s younger daughter Eleanor, are romantically involved and he knows Harding to be a conscientious employee with whom he has a cordial relationship. Add in the fact that Harding’s son-in-law is the archdeacon whose intractable opinion on the case, as the lawsuit proceeds, creates an atmosphere that Harding can’t tolerate. As the case advances Trollope skewers The Jupiter, a newspaper modeled after The Times, which has taken up the case as just another example of the misuse of funds by the Church in general and Harding in particular. Mr. Popular Sentiment (Charles Dickens) and Dr Pessimist Anticant (Thomas Carlyle) also take up the case and are caricatured by Trollope.

The writing is spectacular and I will certainly be continuing on with the series. But it’s the development of the Harding character that really stands out. It had me wondering how many brave, honest, upright people I know who would stand up for what is right the way Harding did. And the fact that I had a smile on my face throughout the book didn’t hurt either.

”The bishop did not whistle: we believe that they lose the power of doing so on being consecrated; and that in these days one might as easily meet a corrupt judge as a whistling bishop; but he looked as though he would have done so, but for his apron.”

So…a quiet little book but a compelling look at a microcosm of British church life, from a time that is long gone. Witty and ironic, sweet and moving it couldn’t have been a better introduction to an author I will continue to explore. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member atimco
The Warden is the first book in Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire novels, and deals with a sticky legal question involving the Church of England's financial responsibilities. Under the will of John Hiram, twelve aged workingmen are to be supported in a hospital (or home) and overseen/served by a
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warden of the church. Since Hiram's 1434 will, the income from his estates has increased dramatically and the surplus monies have been routed to the warden rather than to the workingmen (whose needs are fully satisfied in their current arrangements). When a young liberal activist named John Bold learns that Hiram's will is not being followed to the letter, he immediately opens a lawsuit to investigate the church's appropriation of the money. What complicates matters is that Bold is in love with Eleanor Harding, the daughter of the current warden — and Bold considers Mr. Septimus Harding himself to be a good friend. Can he reconcile what he feels is his civic duty with these personal loyalties? Who really should get that eight hundred pounds a year?

Mr. Harding is a wonderfully endearing character. In addition to being the warden of the hospital, he is also a preceptor and delights in the music for the church services. He is a humble man who is horrified at the grasping, greedy picture of himself that the newspapers paint for the world to read. After a struggle of no mean proportions, he determines that he must give up the wardenship and its accompanying eight hundred pounds, despite the financial blow it will be and the bullying tactics of his more worldly-wise son-in-law, Dr. Grantly. The little machinations to which Mr. Harding resorts in order to get his way despite his weakness are funny and sad at the same time. He's very much a passive-aggressive type, unwilling and unable to argue with Dr. Grantly but firm in his convictions. He buys a clean conscience in the end, despite everything his friends try to do to save him from his own moral promptings.

There are other endearing characters as well. Eleanor is quite the heroine with her brave resolve of giving up John Bold to save her father. Though she is foiled in this noble plan by her friend, Bold's sister Mary, there's no doubt Eleanor really did intend to see it through. I also liked the bishop, another fuddling and "weak" man like Mr. Harding who nevertheless demonstrates true charity and consideration for others. Dr. Grantly is really the only villain in the book (well, perhaps Tom Towers and Abraham Haphazard qualify too), but even he is softened. Indeed, Trollope does his best to apologize for Dr. Grantly's overbearing manner and inflexible pride... and he succeeds. I can't dislike Dr. Grantly nearly as much as I think I ought to. Perhaps Trollope did not feel it wise to castigate a clergyman too harshly.

I appreciated the dry, understated humor that crops up unexpectedly throughout the novel. There is Trollope's brilliant description of a ball, wherein the young men and young women are depicted as opposing armies staring at one another across the ballroom and slowly making advances. The metaphor is quite drawn out and it gets funnier as it continues. And there are the "conjugal confabulations" of the imposing Dr. Grantly and his wife as they converse in bed, along with some amusing reflections on what a trial it must be for clergymen's wives to see their dignified husbands in all states of dishabille. You have to be on the watch for Trollope's humor; he doesn't trumpet that he is being funny when he makes a smart little comment about someone. I laughed at his little descriptions, like the archdeacon's sigh "that would have moved a man-of-war." In some ways it's almost Austenian. In other places (especially in the conversations of the bedesmen), Trollope reminded me of Thomas Hardy's working-class characters.

In his introduction, Louis Auchincloss writes that the crux of the novel is a recurring theme with Trollope: the inevitable collision of traditional privilege and modern ideas. Auchincloss claims (and I think I'd agree) that Trollope understands, to some extent, why people would agitate for change, but ultimately he isn't sure that the change will be for the better. Auchincloss also gently chides Trollope for criticizing the power of the popular newspaper and for portraying Dickens as a sentimentalist painting in garish colors. I'm not sure I care for Auchincloss's tone here; it's one thing to point out Trollope's criticism, but another to call it "inappropriate," as if Trollope is a child being reproved for saying a bad word.

I enjoyed this quiet little novel, so commonplace in its events but undergirded with little profundities, like Mr. Harding being "not so anxious to prove himself right, as to be so." Would that I were the same. I'm new to Trollope, but it seems one the chief delights of his work are the little gems like that. I look forward to the rest of the Barsetshire novels!
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
I had been warned that this is not Anthony Trollope's most exciting novel, but as it is the first in the Barsetshire Chronicles and I had a copy at hand, it was the first Trollope that I've read. It hasn't generally aged well, nineteenth century Church of England politics being somewhat out of
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fashion as a topic of interest, but the writing is strong and reminded me why I enjoy Victorian authors so much.

Reverend Harding is a pleasant, ineffectual man who has a sinecure as the warden of a small retirement home for deserving working class men that includes a house with pleasant gardens and an annual salary of 800 pounds, given to him because one of his two daughters had married the son of the bishop. Here he lives comfortably, enjoying his music, reading books and visiting the old men in the adjoining hospital now and again. His life would have continued in pleasant routine had not a spirit of reform begun to sweep England and a young reformer, the aptly named John Bold, questioned the generosity of the annual allowance.

Trollope is clearly on the side of the status quo, and he breaks from the narrative to complain about the tactics of an author (supposedly Charles Dickens), whom he calls Mr Popular Sentiment, and who he accuses of biasing the public by creating characters and situations that manipulate the reader into sympathy with his poor working class characters. Of course, Trollope is doing exactly the same thing here; Harding is so mild and inoffensive that it is impossible not to hope that he can keep his generous and largely unearned salary.

Outside of the machinations of the lawyers, clergymen and journalists, there is a sub-plot involving Harding's unmarried daughter and John Bold. They had feelings for each other before Bold discovered possible shady dealings on the matter of the wardenship and it's uncertain as to whether their love will survive the conflict. This part of the novel is particularly satisfying, as Eleanor is an interesting character and Bold's conflict as he tries to do what he sees is right without losing her love results in the most satisfying chapters in this brief novel.

I'm looking forward to continuing on with the Barsetshire Chronicles.
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LibraryThing member AMQS
I enjoyed this audio very much. The Warden gently satirizes 19th century church and social traditions by portraying the ethical dilemma confronting Septimus Harding. Harding is a clergyman and the warden of Hiram's Hospital, a place where 12 poor old men can live in peace and comfort. A trust was
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established in a will some few hundred years before for the care of these old, broken-down laborers with no means on which to live out their final years. While the stipend allotted to each bedesman has remained unchanged for centuries, the amount earned by the warden entrusted with their care is now at 800 pounds a year. When church reformers, led by John Bold, declare this to be an unjust interpretation of the will of the original benefactor, it pits Bold and most of the bedesmen against the powerful and self-important Archdeacon, who perceives an assault on the Church itself. Caught in the middle is the kindly and decent warden, who never intended to take more than his due, and comes to feel that perhaps the reformers' claims have merit. The ensuing legal battle and scathing indictments in the press cause much misery for the tenderhearted warden. To further complicate matters, the staunch Archdeacon is the warden's son-in-law, and John Bold is in love with the warden's other daughter.

I enjoyed this book for its gentle satirizing of the 19th century church, and of the outrageously righteous reformers. The press, represented by the powerful Jupiter, is portrayed a bit more harshly as being all criticism and anonymity with no accountability, and Charles Dickens ("Mr. Popular Sentiment") is also taken to task for black-and-white condemnations. I particularly loved the warden's devotion to his beloved violincello, and how, during times of stress, he would play it in his mind and with silent gesticulations, paying particular attention to fingering and bowing as the music in his head rose and swelled, and the sweet notes soothed his worry. The humor, sweet melancholy, and excellent narration made for enjoyable listening.
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LibraryThing member richardderus
Book Circle Reads 155

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Book Description: The Warden centers on Mr. Harding, a clergyman of great personal integrity who is nevertheless in possession of an income from a charity far in excess of the sum devoted to the purposes of the foundation. On discovering this, young
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John Bold turns his reforming zeal to exposing what he regards as an abuse of privilege, despite the fact that he is in love with Mr. Harding's daughter Eleanor. It was a highly topical novel (a case regarding the misapplication of church funds was the scandalous subject of contemporary debate), but like other great Victorian novelists, Trollope uses the specific case to explore and illuminate the universal complexities of human motivation and social morality.

My Review: First read in the 1980s, during the first Reagan Administration, I was struck at how little things had changed in the past 130 years. Mr. Bold's lawsuit and its unintended consequences, the fuss and kerfuffle over the uses of “public” (really now, could the specific bequest of a trust to support a charitable activity and administered by the church be considered public today?) funds in a manner the onlooker simply didn't like...think Chrysler bailout, but not International Harvester or US Steel...all of this resonated with me.

Eleanor Harding was no one's fool, hooking up with that pill of the first water John Bold! And I have to say that the portrait of Dickens as Mr. Popular Sentiment made me chortle.

But on re-reading the book in 2012...well...the magic eluded me. I think this was a book that needed the element of not knowing the ending to make the events fun. Since I knew already who was going to do what, I had no huge amount of interest in following the path laid out for me. It was still amusing. It wasn't ever gripping, but it was involving. Now, after 30 years, much of what took place had fled from my head until the words hit my eyes. But as they returned, it was as blocks and lumps and boulders, not flowing back into the river of my thoughts like cool springs and bright brooks.

Good Victorian stodge. But once was enough.
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LibraryThing member Cariola
The first of the Barchester series, The Warden seems obviously designed to set up the next five novels. It's fine on its own, but not the best of Trollope by any means. Mr. Harding, warden of an almshouse for 12 elderly disabled men, finds himself the target of a lawsuit promoted by his daughter's
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admirer. The claim is that the benefactor's will did not mean for the church to use the bequest to fund a warden, but that it was meant to go directly to the 12 men. Complicating factors is the fact that the archdeacon, married to Harding's elder daughter, insists on fighting the suit, which gets nasty in the public press. The plot focuses on how Mr. Harding, a genuinely kind and good man, deals with the stress and his own conscience, and how his daughter Eleanor struggles between her fierce love for her father and her growing affection for John Bull, the lawyer behind the lawsuit.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
This review could be subtitled, "In which I develop a fondness for Anthony Trollope." A couple of years ago I gave up on Barchester Towers, and while I had my reasons I never felt good about it. This time I decided to start at the beginning of Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire, and I'm glad I
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Septimus Harding is warden and precentor of Barchester Cathedral. The Warden's duties also include the care of twelve elderly gentlemen living in an almshouse associated with the cathedral. Harding is getting on in years, and enjoys the stability and limited demands of his position. He has a good relationship with the bishop:
The bishop and Mr. Harding loved each other warmly. They had grown old together, and had together spent many, many years in clerical pursuits and clerical conversation. When one of them was a bishop and the other only a minor canon they were even then much together; but since their children had married, and Mr. Harding had become warden and precentor, they were all in all to each other. I will not say that they managed the diocese between them, but they spent much time in discussing the man who did, and in forming little plans to mitigate his wrath against church delinquents, and soften his aspirations for church dominion.

But Harding is on more tenuous terms with the second in command, archdeacon Dr. Grantly who, incidentally, is also Harding's son-in-law. Dr. Grantly is rather full of himself, in an amusing way:
In the diocese of Barchester the Archdeacon of Barchester does the work. In that capacity he is diligent, authoritative, and, as his friends particularly boast, judicious. His great fault is an overbearing assurance of the virtues and claims of his order, and his great foible is an equally strong confidence in the dignity of his own manner and the eloquence of his own words.

There's trouble afoot in Barchester, and it comes not so much from Grantly as from John Bold, a young attorney interested both in Harding's younger daughter Elinor, and in making a name for himself. His approach to the latter is to stir up controversy about management of church funds. Specifically, he questions whether the original terms concerning the almshouse are still being adhered to. Perhaps the church is keeping an unfair part of money that should rightfully go to the almshouse residents?

Harding is shattered by this accusation. Not so much because it comes from a potential future son-in-law, but because of his care and concern for the men in the almshouse. He cannot bear the thought of cheating them out of income. Grantly, of course, takes an opposing view and does all in his power to keep funds for the church. The matter becomes a public scandal, and then things get really interesting, as Harding and Grantly deal with the situation, and each try to outmaneuver the other.

Along the way Trollope relentlessly satirizes the church, with its endless bureaucracy and politics, as well as the newspapers which fan the flames of scandal. I'm sure some of this was lost on me, but I got enough to enjoy it. Mostly, however, I just loved Septimus Harding, an example if there ever was one of the meek inheriting the earth. Yes, he had a cushy job and no real desire to work harder, but at the same time he was a man of principles and willing to stand up for them in a time of crisis.

Now I'm looking forward to having another go at Barchester Towers!
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LibraryThing member thorold
The Barchester novels are always fun to re-read: this time around I was struck by the resonances between Trollope's mid-Victorian satire on the process of reform and the scandal-of-the-moment in England. Obviously, it was at least as reprehensible for some Victorian clergymen to live in luxury off
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the fruits of medieval charities as it is for some MPs fraudulently to claim vast sums in expenses, but when the newspapers and the lawyers get involved then no-one troubles to distinguish between the real villains and the unfortunate majority who just get caught up in the system.

Since there isn't much of a story to be interrupted by them, I don't think Trollope's sometimes rather lengthy asides to the reader are a problem: we can just enjoy them for their own sake. I particularly like the little send-up of Dickens (as "Mr Popular Sentiment"), complete with a thumbnail sketch of how he would have written the story.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This tale is the embodiment of irony. In the pages of this novel we find the young and idealistic (and also ambitious) reformer, the honorable clergyman, and the foolish and uneducated. The perfect recipe for ruining what is good and replacing it with something worse. Mr. Trollope includes many
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asides and witticisms and there is the feeling that while the tale is worth telling, the points the author wants to make are at least as important. Curious style of writing and makes me curious to know what his other books are like.
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LibraryThing member SandDune
The first of Anthony Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, The Warden is a short but beautifully formed book. The story of Mr Septimus Harding, the precentor of Barchester Cathedral, and the warden of Hiram's Hospital, an almshouse in the cathedral city of Barchester. The twelve old men housed by the
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hospital receive an income of one shilling and four pence per day, whereas the increase in the value of the property in the centuries since the charity was founded leaves the warden with a substantial income of eight hundred pounds a year and the use of a handsome house. But as voices begin to be raised questioning whether this division of funds is in line with the original wishes of John Hiram, the very private Mr Harding must face the public scrutiny of his affairs. And to complicate matters the chief instigator of the enquiries is the man with whom Mr Harding's daughter Eleanor is in love.

For me the strength of this book is in the memorable characters that Trollope creates: the honest and generous Mr Harding battling with his own concience; the gentle but ineffectual Bishop; and blowing through the book like a whirlwind there is the wonderful archdeacon Dr Grantley, who alternately organises and terrorises all around him.

Trollope's language at times is just perfect. On discovering that Mr Harding's daughter is likely to become engaged to the chief reformer, John Bold:

'The bishop did not whistle; we believe that they lose the power of doing so on being consecrated; and that in these days one might as easily meet a corrupt judge as a whistling bishop; but he looked as if he would have done so, but for his apron.'

This would probably have rated five stars were it not for some of the satire being lost on the modern reader, although his portrait of the famous novelist Mr Popular Sentiment is still recognisable to anyone who has read any Dickens at all!

I'll definitely going on to read the rest of the Barchester Chronicles.
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LibraryThing member ChocolateMuse
A nice, thoughtful study of a truly 'good' man's struggle for what is right, in a complicated situation where there is no black-and-white answer. One feels for Mr Harding, and also for his rather one-dimensional daughter Eleanor. A quiet sort of book, and I can see how I could easily fall in love
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with the atmosphere of Barchester.
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LibraryThing member BeyondEdenRock
I really didn’t mean to set out on my journey through Trollope’s Barsetshire novels this year. I loved the Palliser novels, I planned to read a few more of his stand-alone novels before I began his other series; and, if I’m honest, I have to admit that I was a little wary of this first book,
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that many have said is weaker that the books that follow and that I gave up on back in the days before I came to understand what makes Trollope so very special.

A disappointing dramatisation of a book from the middle of this series – I’ll say no more because others who know and love that book have said it already, and much better than I could – made me want to read that book. Because, disappointing though it was, I could see enough in the underpinning to suggest that it was likely to be a book I would love.

That was why, with just a little apprehension, I picked up this first book in the series.

I loved it. And now that I am well into the second book in the series I have to say that I’m not enjoying it as much as I enjoyed this first book. ‘Barchester Towers’ feels rambling and unstructured after this book; I do like it, but not as much as I had hoped, and so I have put it to one side for a while.

‘The Warden’ is one of Trollope’s shorter novels, and I would liken it to a beautifully wrought miniature; not quite perfect but lovely nonetheless.

This story, like many a Trollope, spins around a will. An alms house was set up under the terms of the will of John Hiram in the fifteenth century, to provide food, comfort and shelter for twelve old men who had no home and no means. They were also granted a shilling and fourpence a day for any other wants they might have.

What surplus there was – and sometimes there was very little – was granted to the warden a clergyman responsible for the running of what would become known as ‘Hiram’s Hospital’ and for the spiritual welfare of the men who resided there.

The explaining of this took a while, and that may have been why I put the book down first time around. This time though I felt at home in the author’s company and I recalled that my aunt had been warden of a similar alms house, albeit in a different age and under very different terms.

This story begins when Septimus Harding, a respected, well-liked clergyman, was the warden of Hiram’s Hospital, and when the value of the bequest had grown significantly. That meant that Mr Harding had a very healthy income as well as a lovely house and garden; and he was happy in his work; he cared for his twelve residents and they all liked and respected him.

It is the story of the trials of Mr Harding.

John Bold, an earnest young reformer, was convinced that the hospital funds were being unfairly allocated and that the warden’s income was out of proportion to the minimal duties he is expected to perform. Mr Harding was unworldly, he had never thought to question the financial arrangements of the hospital, though he had had used his personal funds to increase the allowance given to the hospital’s residents to one and sixpence a day.

The popular press took up Mr Bold’s cause, it became a cause celebre, and a court case ensued.

The clerical community, with the forceful archdeacon Dr Grantly, son of the Bishop and husband of Mr Harding’s elder daughter at the forefront, supported the continuation of the warden’s right to the surplus income from the bequest.

John Bold took the opposite view; even though he considered Mr. Harding as a friend, even though he sought the hand in marriage of his younger daughter, Eleanor.

Mr Harding wanted to do the right thing, but he was none to sure what the right thing was.

I loved the way that Trollope told this story. He presented his characters and all of the arguments so well; his narrative voice was warm, acute and witty; and I was particularly taken with how well he created the letters and newspaper reports that illuminated his story.

I appreciated that, though I had a good idea where his sympathies lay, he presented both sides of the matter quite clearly. That made it easy to feel empathy with Mr Harding, a good man who really didn’t know what the rightness of the case was. And to wonder what had been the intentions of John Hiram when he made his will, and what would happen to the old men at the institution the bore his name.

I was very taken with archdeacon, Dr Grantly. He was so certain of the rightness of his cause, and so formidable as he set out to fight for that cause. He was wonderfully entertaining on the printed page, and, though I’m not sure I’d like to meet him in real life, I loved his tenacity, and his loyalty to his family and the church.

I loved Eleanor Harding. She was as devoted to his father as he was to her, and she snubbed John Bold while he was in the enemy camp. She didn’t cut her ties with him though; his sister continued to be her dearest friend, and she hoped that her romance could be rekindled when the court case was over and the dust had settled. She would always be loyal to her father, but she would never lose sight of the future that she knew was ahead of her, the life she wanted to lead.

Most of all though I loved Septimus Harding. He loved his daughters, he loved the old men who were in his care, he loved the work he had been called to do, he appreciated all of the good things he had in his life; and when finally decided what was the right thing to do he proved to be as tenacious, in his own quiet way as his formidable son-in-law.

The sequence of events, as he travelled to London and found his way to the people he needed to see – very much an innocent abroad – was beautifully judged and a joy to read.,

His subsequent visit to the bishop, an old and sympathetic friend, and his return to Hiram’s Hospital were every bit as good.

There were one or two character I would have liked to spend a little more time with – Mary Bold, Susan Grantly and certain of the residents of Hiram’s Hospital – but this is a small book and there is a whole series ahead of me to see a little more of the characters in this book and to meet others.

I’m not sure that I’ll like the next book as much as this one, but I do want to give it another chance and I do want to spend more time in this world.
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LibraryThing member JaneSteen
Where I got the book: audiobook on Audible.

This is the first novel in the Barchester Chronicles—attentive friends may remember that I listened to the second novel, Barchester Towers, first, loved it and then found it was the abridged version (grrrr) and decided to go back to the beginning and
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listen to the whole series, unabridged. There are several different audio versions available, and after listening to the samples I opted for this one, narrated by David Shaw-Parker who does a nice job.

It’s a simple enough story: clergyman Septimus Harding is living a peaceful life as the Warden of a hospital (a sort of charity home) for old, indigent men. It’s a nice job with few responsibilities and a fat stipend, allowing Mr. Harding to live as a gentleman and support his single daughter Eleanor. But then reformer John Bold (who happens to be Eleanor’s sweetheart) starts asking questions about the legacy that set up the hospital in the first place, and why the Warden lives so well when the old men only receive a small payment. The newspapers start paying attention, and poor Mr. Harding (who’s been supplementing the old men’s living out of his own pocket) has to choose between giving up his comfortable life or putting up with the glare of publicity brought about by a lawsuit.

Trollope’s sympathies seem to be squarely on the side of tradition in this story, which was inspired by a number of cases brought against clergymen who were living too well. Having just listened to Barchester Towers (which, of course, I shall be listening to again soon in the unabridged version) I was surprised to realize how closely the two novels are connected—if you’re going to read Barchester Towers, generally considered Trollope’s greatest novel, you should doubtless read The Warden first. Being Trollope there’s a great deal of legal and political detail, interspersed with character sketches at some length.

At one point we follow Mr. Harding through just about every minute of a difficult afternoon spent in London, which is hard going even though for the historian it does supply an enormous amount of detail about how people actually lived. It’s during this day that Trollope also goes into a long riff on the power of the press, which is decidedly tedious. In today’s terms, this novel’s got a bit of a saggy middle. And yet I enjoyed the story on the whole, and the audiobook format definitely makes it easier to digest. I’m looking forward to revisiting Barchester in the near future.
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LibraryThing member bencritchley
I seem to have revealed rather a lot about the plot - please exercise caution etc

The first part of a series, but a standalone novel nonetheless. I really enjoyed it (I know I seem to say that a lot) and see as its central theme the conflict between public and private, internal and external,
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personal and social. It's a novel about then-current newspaper scandals and church reform, but it's also a deeply personal story of one man, the titular warden, and his internal moral struggle. Mr Harding is a pleasant and well-liked man, and what happens to him is unfair and unpleasant. The end is both a victory and a defeat for Harding, which is a good illustration of the central split of the novel. Both forces acting upon Harding, broadly speaking, the external and the external, are acting from good motives, on the side of Right, (almost all the main characters are connected to the church) and yet they are set in opposition quite early in the text, as Harding realises he cannot do right by the church and his own conscience concurrently.
This split continues as although firmly rooted in contemporary, mid-Victorian issues, scandals and mores, it is very relevant now with regard to charity and obligation in a changing world, and how the best of intentions - and John Bold has the best of intentions - can have unforeseen results when we treat people as statistics. Bold sees Harden as The Warden and, in seeing the injustice of the position, overlooks the kindness and charity of the man.
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LibraryThing member jasonlf
I had been saving Trollope for later life, largely because I was worried that once I got started I might feel compelled to read all 47 of his novels. But somehow read the first few pages of this and couldn't put it down. The story is rather slight, many of the characters absurd, some of the satire
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over the top, but somehow it is enjoying and compelling from beginning to end.

The story is about a church official who also serves as the beneficent, albeit well remunerated, Warden of an almshouse for twelve elderly, indigent men. He becomes the target of a local reformer who wants more of the endowment to go to the poor and less to the Warden. A series of lawsuits and machinations follow, lightly interspersed with a wooden romance, and along the way Trollope skewers parliament, the media, the Church of England, philosophical writers, Charles Dickens, and others. Unlike Dickens, none of the characters -- minor or major -- have much life to them. And most of them are painfully cardboard.

But somehow the careful descriptions, the impossible situation depicted, and the panormatic view of this tiny segment of time, space and society are compelling. As one of Trollope's earliest works, I can only assume they get better -- and will require some restraint not to pick up another Trollope novel anytime soon.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
I've not read Trollope before, and just recently decided it was time to fill that particular gap in my education, so resolved to begin picking up nice copies of his works as I found them. Quite literally the next day there was a lovely near-complete set of the Barsetshire books (Everyman's Library
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edition) on the shelves at a local shop, and I couldn't resist just adding the lot of them to my shelves. A copy of the missing volume was easily obtained, and now I can look forward to savoring them (that is, if I can manage not to read them all in one grand bacchanal, which may be difficult to avoid if this first dip into the pool is any indication).

What a delight this was! A lush, leisurely story, filled with dry humor, an intriguing cast of characters, and with a real moral dilemma at its heart. And ooooh, that Archdeacon Grantly! From the very first I had this "no way this can possibly end well" sense, and it was a great pleasure to see how Trollope brought it all together. Effectively satirical and deeply amusing, this volume has very much made me want to read more.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
A clergyman, Mr. Harding, is accused of abusing of his privilege of receiving a high income for very little work, and that church funds are being misappropriated; both accusations made by a young reformer who also happens to be in love with the clergyman's daughter, and influences those who are
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directly under the clergyman's protection and benefiting from his generosity. Mr. Harding is well-loved by all, and the combination of savage media outcry and his unimpeachable honesty pushes him to take actions which are against his best interests. Can't say I absolutely loved this novel, but in the context of the tutoring thread in which Liz and Genny both provided lots of useful information about the clergy and moral attitudes of the time and so on, certainly helped this modern reader appreciate the story a lot more than I would have without my mentors.
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LibraryThing member SheReadsNovels
Being a lover of Victorian fiction, I have wanted to read something by Anthony Trollope for a long time but didn't know which of his books to begin with. I've heard a lot about The Way We Live Now and Can You Forgive Her? but I decided to go with The Warden because it's relatively short and I
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thought that if I wasn't enjoying it I'd be more likely to finish a book with 200 pages than one with 800. Luckily, this wasn't a problem – I enjoyed the book and wouldn’t have minded if it had been longer.

In the year 1434 John Hiram established a hospital (or almshouse) in the town of Barchester where for centuries to come, twelve elderly, infirm men could live under the care of a warden. At the time when the story takes place, Septimus Harding is the current warden and whilst the amount of money given to the old men has barely changed at all over time, the warden's income has increased to eight hundred pounds a year. When reformer John Bold decides to investigate, Harding finds himself facing a moral dilemma.

The book really made me stop and think, because none of the characters seemed to be either completely in the wrong or completely in the right. Although it was clearly unfair that Mr. Harding was receiving so much money, I sympathised with him because as soon as the unfairness of his position was brought to his attention he became determined to do the right thing. As for the other main characters – John Bold and Harding's son-in-law Archdeacon Grantly – although they are on opposite sides of the debate and have very different opinions regarding the warden's situation, Trollope presents them both as well-intentioned people with normal human flaws. The female characters don't play a very big role in this book, but I loved the relationship between Mr. Harding and his daughter Eleanor.

I really liked Trollope's writing style which is elegant, insightful and witty in a gentle way. There are a few chapters where he departs from the main storyline to spend several pages talking about politics or the media but this is a common trait of Victorian writers. Although it was slow moving in places, Trollope managed to keep me interested from beginning to end. I'm sure some of his other books will be better, but this one was good enough to make me want to read more of his work.
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LibraryThing member almin
Love the writing and the language, even if I have to, at times, read a sentence twice, three times. I still love the beauty of how the words are used and each sentence is an interpretation. Trollope created a character who was drowning in his virtues. I thought there was a better solution to his
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dilemma, he wasn't a practical man, idealistic perhaps, but unable to see the impact of his actions on other people. His conscience was satisfied, but he abandoned the others who were his responsibility, via his job. The future bedesmen that could have benefited from the trust were never allowed the opportunity because of the warden's need to keep his conscience pure.
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
I absolutely loved this gem of a novel and am glad that it is the first of the well-known Barchester series by Trollope. How can you go wrong with a melodrama and a morality tale blend along with characters with names such as Dr. Pessimist Anticant, Mr. Popular Sentiment, and Mr. Quiverful? This is
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the story of a man beset by doubts as to the validity of his source of income. A meek, mild, honorable man, he takes one of his first strong stands about what he believes to be right, even though those who questioned him in the first place had backed down. Themes include: honor, loyalty, the nature of friendship, the absurdity of pundits, and the willingness of people to make judgements based in their own personal interests with limited information. Certainly sounds like issues which are still relevant today!
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LibraryThing member weeksc07
After years of reading around Trollope, I was finally hit by the urge to pick up one of his books, and boy am I glad I did. In doing research to find out where I should start, I read that [The Warden], while important as the first of the Barsetshire novels, is one of Trollope's lesser works. If
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that is true, I can't wait to move on the remainder of Barsetshire, and after that, the Palliser novels. But on to my review.

In simplest terms, it is easy to describe this book as [Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell] without the magic or Downton Abbey without the melodrama: not a whole lot of importance happens, but the narrator and characters are so charming, the story is worthwhile. The dialogue is outstanding. It was extremely easy to imagine these conversations actually taking place in Victorian parlors. The characterization is quite strong, and there are little details, like Mr. Harding's habit of playing an imaginary cello in times of stress, that are just so enjoyable.

There are a few points that I do feel I have to harp on though. There are two consecutive chapters in the middle of the book that are extended metaphors that bog the flow of the story down, without contributing much. Not coincidentally, these are both thinly veiled attacks on institutions of the time: one the journalistic establishment; the other, Charles Dickens. Not long after these two chapters, Trollope suddenly falls in love with footnotes for a single chapter...with the unfortunate fact that every one of these says essentially the same thing.

In the end, however, I greatly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to fans of Victorian literature, and possibly even to people who enjoy Downton Abbey, as long as they can deal with the lack of opulence. If you've made it this far, I'd just like to add that this is my first review on LT and am grateful for your having stuck with me till the end.
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LibraryThing member stillatim
Not exactly perfectly structured, not beautifully written, simplistic plot. There's plenty of filler - the parody of Carlyle is funny, but did we need two versions? And yet enjoyable - especially if you suspect that 'the media' is mainly a tool for whipping 'the public' into a frenzy with
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misinformation, that a laudable interest in justice is often perverted by self-interest and naivety, or that the three-volume Victorian novel really was too long - and very smart. You might disagree with the Warden's position, but it's sympathetic, and Trollope doesn't let you agree with it unthinkingly. But really, a long short story would have been enough. I'll definitely dig deeper into his Barchester novels.
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LibraryThing member kenmueller40
One of the books from 19th century English lit that one should really read. I wonder why no one has made a film about this lovely story. Or have they?
LibraryThing member mbmackay
First in the Chronicles of Barchester series and his first book to achieve popular success. Not as polished as THE SMALL HOUSE AT ALLINGTON which I read earlier. More direct asides to the reader, some plot distractions into topical issues, and some variable pace – but a good book that shows the
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potential later realised. But, as in T.S.H.A.A., the plot has a basic improbability – why would Dr Bold take legal/public action against the father of the woman he was pursuing, and later married? (In TSHAA, the villain proposes, with no real explanation, to a second woman in the week after proposing to the heroine.)
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LibraryThing member PapaDubs
Wonderful story of Mr. Harding the kindly old warden of a hospital (almshouse) for elderly, disabled men. Mr. Harding finds himself enmeshed in a lawsuit regarding the money he receives as warden but as events unfold within the story we discover that the warden truly represents what a good man
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should be. Inspiring. Looking forward to reading additional books in the series.
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