Doctor Thorne

by Anthony Trollope

Paper Book, 1989





New York ; London : Oxford University Press, 1989.


This book is intended for general; all Trollope fans, students of Victorian literature.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
Doctor Thorne, Anthony Trollope's third Barsetshire chronicle, moves away from the ecclesiastical confabulations of the first two books and into the realm of domestic intrigue a lá Austen. Published in 1858, this novel follows the lives of Mary Thorne, whose illegitimate birth has been hushed up by her uncle the doctor, and Frank Gresham, heir to the heavily mortgaged Greshambury estate. Frank and Mary fall in love, of course, but Frank simply must marry money. And the doctor's niece has none.

The story deals with many themes, including the social stigma of illegitimacy, the pressing need of good families to marry money, the horrible effects of alcohol addiction, the corrupt election process, and what integrity really looks like. Trollope's careful pen draws the eye to every human foible without being merciless in this gently humorous tale.

The story and characters reminded me of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. Molly and Mary are very similar; both have as a father-figure the local country doctor, both fall in love with a young man of higher rank, and both are persecuted in their social circles for a perceived indiscretion. Doctor Gibson and Doctor Thorne are also similar—reserved, prideful, principled, fiercely protective, and Scottish!

My favorite character is probably Miss Dunstable, an heiress who has no illusions about her money and the fawning hangers-on it purchases. She is thrown together with Frank in order that he may marry money and save the family honor, but they soon come to a right understanding. She becomes Mary's champion, urging Frank to remain faithful to her no matter what his family says. She's that great.

Trollope is just as comfortable with female characters as male; his portraits of Lady Arabella and the relationships among the female de Courcy cousins are spot-on, with that dash of satire to give the whole thing spice (like when Augusta Gresham's haughty cousin advises her against marrying a lowly lawyer... and eventually marries the selfsame man herself!).

Some may find Trollope's narrative voice intrusive, but I for one enjoy being told that things will turn out all right. But though he does tell us some things ahead of time, other things he keeps secret till the very end. It's just enough suspense to keep me reading madly.

Once again, Trollope delivers. I'm thankful to have discovered his work.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
The third book in Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire series had the same effect on me as the first two: I was lulled into a stupor of pleasant reverie while simultaneously fuming at an intolerable injustice. And just like the first two books, Trollope was happy to let me in on every single secret so that every possible plot twist and the probable ending were known to me well in advance. You have no fear of spoilers here. Trollope does the spoiling himself, making it pretty clear early on what ending you can expect. So what’s a modern reader, totally unschooled in this kind of storytelling, to do? Go with the flow, folks, go with the flow. It doesn’t really matter. The key to Trollope, in my estimation anyway, is his clever and complicated character sketches.

Poor Mary (you’ll repeat that a couple hundred times during the course of the narrative), born of questionable parentage but brought up lovingly by her uncle the eponymous doctor, is in love with the upper class heir to the Greshamsbury estate, Frank Gresham. And Frank is in love with her even if she is penniless. But Frank’s father is in deep debt and Frank has to “marry money,” otherwise how will he keep the wolf from the door and who will save Greshamsbury? After all, his sister is willing to forego a marriage based on love and, instead, “marry money”, and no less is expected from Frank. Really, much more is expected from him. But he is insisting on Mary and no one else. So you know without any further ado, that something (or someone) is going to intervene to make this storybook romance come true. And before long you know exactly how it will come about. And you know all this with at least half of the 600 page book left to read. The rest of the book is spent twisting and turning its way to the ultimate conclusion.

Mary sums up the main theme of the book this way:

”She said to herself, proudly, that God's handiwork was the inner man, the inner woman, the naked creature animated by a living soul; that all other adjuncts were but man's clothing for the creature; all others, whether stitched by tailors or contrived by kings. Was it not within her capacity to do as nobly, to love as truly, to worship her God in heaven with as perfect a faith, and her god on earth with as leal a troth, as though blood had descended to her purely through scores of purely born progenitors?” (Page 133)

Ahhh lovely sentiments and true of course. Mary is certainly good enough for Frank and marrying for money seldom works out well. The problem is that at this time in England, it was pretty much impossible for someone with Mary’s sketchy background to marry someone of Frank’s long family heritage. Unless……well, an enormous fortune might make a difference. But I’m not going to spoil it for you. I’ll let Mr. Trollope do that and you won’t even mind. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member DieFledermaus
The third novel in Trollope's Barsetshire series is better than The Warden, but doesn't quite reach the level of Barchester Towers. This time, the story takes place out in the country, though characters from the earlier two make cameos. Dr. Thorne, relative of the previously mentioned Ullathornes, is an unassuming country doctor with his illegitimate niece Mary. They both enjoy the patronage of the Greshams, the local squire's family with links to the titled de Courcys. Unfortunately, Squire Gresham's estate is mortgaged due to poor management and eldest son Frank must marry money to save the family name and lands. Of course, Frank and Mary fall in love and disaster ensues. Trollope's usual wit, sublime prose and comforting narrator are all present. However, this offering deals with a variety of class issues.

The author unreservedly condemns mercenary marriages - it's just another form of selling yourself. Lady Arabella Gresham supports them and the de Courcy girls contemplate how much, exactly, they would have to sell themselves for. Mary Thorne, the admirable heroine, says she'd never marry for money and does prove herself by turning down an offer from a rich but boorish man she doesn't love. Augusta Gresham's engagement of money-meets-nobility turns sour. Miss Dunstable, a wealthy heiress with no name, is portrayed as practical and caring when she turns down numerous mercenary proposals and encourages Frank to stay loyal to Mary.

However, the novel does display some class ambivalence. Mary remarks that if she were situated like the Greshams, she would never marry below her class for money. Whether she would do it for love remains unanswered - Trollope sidesteps the question of whether the match between Frank and a penniless Mary would be laudable. Sir Roger Scatchard's class switch, resulting from his new money, also seems to warn against transgressing class boundaries. Although Roger is intelligent and industrious, he retains his vulgar habits and alcoholism from former days. Dr. Thorne is his only friend - he admits he's no longer comfortable amongst workers of his former class but can't mix with the educated gentry. His son, Sir Louis, is much worse.

The novel runs a bit long, but still very good.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Although romance is at the center of Doctor Thorne, the male protagonist, Doctor Thorne, is not the romantic lead. He's the uncle of Mary Thorne, who comes to live with him in her early adolescence. Unknown to almost everyone except Doctor Thorne and the reader, Mary is the illegitimate daughter of Thorne's brother and a working class girl. Mary is allowed to continue her education with the Gresham children, whose father, the squire, is the leading figure in local society. Inevitably, the squire's only son and heir, Frank, falls in love with Mary. However, Frank isn't free to marry whomever he chooses. Because of the squire's financial problems, the family insists that Frank must marry money, leaving Frank with an impossible choice. Why won't Doctor Thorne intervene? He and the reader know something that the other characters don't, something that might change everything...

There are similarities between Mary Thorne's situation and Harriet Smith's situation in Emma. Emma ignored Harriet's lack of family connection and wealth and encouraged Harriet to aspire to marry above her station, almost ensuring that Harriet wouldn't marry at all. Doctor Thorne was less impulsive than Emma, but no less at fault. Harriet was of marriageable age when Emma took her on as a matchmaking project. Mary was still a child when she came to live with her uncle. He failed to think about what would happen when Mary reached adulthood.

This was a tiny bit of a letdown after Barchester Towers. I missed the church politics and all of the wonderfully flawed characters in the ranks of the clergy. The de Courcy women, including Lady Arabella Gresham, could learn a thing or two from Mrs. Proudie. Still, it's Trollope so it's entertaining and at times laugh-out-loud funny. Even the names of the characters can bring a smile to your face – Miss Gushing, Dr. Fillgrave, Mr. Reddypalm, Mr. Nearthewinde. Readers who enjoy Victorian historical fiction should give Trollope a try.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
2007, Blackstone Audiobooks, Read by Simon Vance

Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire are a source of delight for me, and Dr. Thorne more than lived up to my expectations. True to form, Trollope delights with manors and manners, money and the lack of it, highborns and illegitimates, romance and scandal. Naturally, class distinctions are ever-present as the prominent families of the novel are introduced: the very moral, very middle-class Thornes; the Greshams, entitled by birth but near bankrupt on account of poor management; the Scatcherds, not entitled by birth, but exorbitantly wealthy; and the De Coursys, high-born, wealthy, entitled, and arrogant. Excitement ensues when Frank Gresham and Mary Thorne fall in love. Mary, though well raised, well loved, and well mannered, is not only exceedingly middle-class but, much worse, illegitimate and poor. And Frank’s father has put him in a position where he must marry for money or risk the family estate. “Instead of heart beating to heart in sympathetic unison, purse chinks to purse.” (9/18) Oh, the Victorian drama!

At its heart, Dr. Thorne is a character story. To a fault, the characters are round and relatable: the doctor, compassionate, sensible, and loyal; Mary Thorne, mannered, independent, and indignant; Lady Arabella Gresham, highborn, insufferable, and broke; Frank Gresham, noble, honest, and also near broke; Sir Roger Scatcherd, obscenely wealthy, ruthless, and hopelessly alcoholic.

The novel is wonderfully written and perfectly read by Simon Vance in this Blackstone Audiobook. Trollope’s humour, wit, and gentle social sarcasm make for delightful entertainment. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member TadAD
It's got an entirely predictable plot revolving around social class, "good blood", and true love vs. an eye for a fortune. Its characters fulfill all the stock roles: penniless orphan, snooty aristocrat, self-made man, young lovers. And it's got a happy ending that you never doubted was coming.

And, yet, for all of its predictable nature, it's entirely heart-warming and enjoyable. The good characters will grab you; the bad ones will give you someone to despise; the subplots keep the story interesting and Trollope's gentle humor is found throughout.… (more)
LibraryThing member eleanor_eader
Not having read any Trollope before, I didn’t realise that this is the third novel in the ‘Barsetshire’ series. Fortunately, while some characters might be recurring, the book is completely self-contained and order of reading absolutely unimportant, particularly as the author seems unfond of twists in plot, and furnishes the reader with lots of comfortable authorial insight. The novel is therefore quite unchallenging, but in an agreeable way.

Mary Thorne, illegitimate niece of the book’s hero (on which point every reasonable reader will agree with the author) Dr. Thorne, loves and is loved by the son of the local squire, whose fortune and living have dwindled to the point where a judicious marriage for young Frank Gresham is the only hope for the family’s security and good standing. Dr. Thorne himself, while not rich, is placed in the problematic situation of executing a will that has every bearing on Mary’s romantic plight. This plot, unburdened by any disagreeable suspense, and further lightened by Trollope’s drollery (and some shameless author intrusion), kept me entertained but left me a little embarrassed at not having to work any harder for it.
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LibraryThing member stillatim
Trollope's style is lovely, but the plot in this one's a bit thin- while the first two Barsetshire novels felt a bit short, this feels too long. This is particularly odd, since all the asides and expostulations that feature in Barchester Towers are thankfully missing from this book. After some thought, I decided that the main reason this one was less interesting is that while Barchester was about politics, this is a pretty straightforward love story. There's some politics involved, but the satire is comparatively light. Also, the characters seem much flatter on this side of Barsetshire, probably because we don't see anyone wanting anything other than a) more money; b) more booze; c) a 'good' marriage in the family or d) their beloved. Not much grey area for Trollope to investigate and poke fun at in there. Mary's too close to Clarissa and too far from Mrs Proudie. Miss Dunstable, on the other hand, is fabulous, and I hear she turns up again in Framley Parsonage.… (more)
LibraryThing member catherinestead
Frank loves Mary. Mary loves Frank. Frank's father is broke and aristocratic. Frank needs to marry money, and lots of it. Mary is broke and illegitimate. Frank's mother refuses to have Mary in the house. Mary's uncle is rich and dying and holds the mortgage on Frank's father's estate. But no-one knows that he is Mary's uncle. Least of all Mary.

The plot is straightforward, but that doesn't matter. There are numerous tiny twists and turns wending sinuously through the book, keeping it moving along. The characters are wonderful, and the sub-plots are wonderful. (I was laughing aloud at the account of the Barchester election, the feud between Drs Thorne and Fillgrave, and at the unfortunate Miss Gushing turning Methodist.) The writing is wonderful. In fact, the whole book is wonderful and now I am gushing.
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
Third volume of the Barchester Chronicles series, and first one to have a Dickensian plot twist – the “orphan” heroine is really the niece of the rich railway builder who conveniently leaves his fortune to her. But, in contrast to Dickens, the plot twist is known all along, and unfolds according to plan. The plot is just a vehicle that allows the characters to be developed and enjoyed. The lower class railway building magnate is a failure as a character – very one dimensional and unbelievable. Trollope is best with the minor gentry and clergy that make up the rest of the cast. Mary Thorne is a treat, and interestingly, much of her character development is expressed in her dialogue rather than descriptive text.

Includes some language that I thought was more modern: people getting “sore” at each other; something being declared as “no go”; and the phrase “more power to you” which was overused in the Philippines in the 1990s.
Read February 2008
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LibraryThing member Cariola
The third volume in Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, is, for the most part, a typical tale of young lovers separated by the rigid class distinctions of Victorian England. Frank Gresham, whose father has mismanaged the family fortune and is on the verge of losing his beloved estate, is expected to marry for money, but he has long loved Mary Thorne, the titleless, penniless niece of the local doctor. It all turns out well for them in the end, of course, as in such novels it usually does; but it's the many sidetracks and delightful characterizations and the way these are all intertwined that make so enjoyable. The perpetually intoxicated Sir Roger Scatchard, for example, a murderer who did his time, made a fortune in the railroads, and was granted a baronetcy, and his lovable, unaffected wife, Lady Scatchard, who enjoyed life much more as a wet nurse. Lady Gresham, who would willingly marry her children to nobodies--as long as they came with enough cash to save the estate. The down-to-earth Miss Dunstable, heir to the Oil of Lebanon fortune, who knows a golddigger when she sees one and encourages Frank to go with his heart. Uber-snob Amelia DeCourcey, who persuades her cousin Augusta Gresham that it is her duty to rejct the proposal of the lawyer, Mr. Gazeby--and then promptly marries him herself. Doctor Thorne himself takes the part of the voice of reason throughout. While not quite as enjoyable as or , partly because of its predictable plot, is still an enjoyable read.… (more)
LibraryThing member DavidGreene
Includes a moving description of the alcoholic Sir Roger Scatcherd. The Doctor struggles to find a balance between professional responsibility, compassion and enabling in Sir Roger's dramatic death scene.
LibraryThing member hildeg
The third of the Barset novels. This is a bit different. The characters of the previous novels make but the briefest appearance. This is the story of dr. Thorne and his connection with two families - the Greshams of Greshamsbury (symbolic name...?) and the Scatcherds. And of course about his beloved, perfect niece Mary.
Even if it is quite apparent from the beginning how it will end, the story is very interesting. I may be repeating myself, but Trollope shows great insight in human nature.… (more)
LibraryThing member MarysLibrary
Dr Thorne raises his niece, Mary, as if she were his own daughter. But she isn't. She's the illegitimate daughter of working man made good, Sir Roger Scatchard. He has named his sister's eldest child as his heir and that child is Mary Thorne.
LibraryThing member PollyMoore3
I love the four Barsetshires I've got, but didn't care for Framley Parsonage or The Small House at Allington. Fortunately each novel can stand alone.
LibraryThing member Stevil2001
This was my first Trollope, and perhaps not a very good one to start with, because I did not think it a very good book. It is about dull people doing dull things in very long-winded fashion-- all the worst attributes of Victorian fiction distilled and then diluted, like reading Dickens but without any good jokes, or Eliot without the psychological insight, or Gaskell without the class awareness. I did like some of the stuff about local politics, and the young protagonist's attempt to marry a notorious seductress.… (more)
LibraryThing member KromesTomes
Oh, those wacky Victorians!

Frank Gresham and Mary Thorne are "in love," but how can they possibly marry? After all, Mary's parents never married ... in fact, her father had seduced her mother, a poor serving girl, and then was killed by the mother's brother once the pregnancy was discovered. And, needless to say, she's not exactly well off from a monetary point of view.

Meanwhile, Frank's father has run the family estate into some serious financial problems, and Frank has to "marry money" if he's to save the day.

Various coincidences and much agonizing occur before, and I don't think this will spoil the book for anyone, the happy ending.

Yet for all the soap opera-ish aspects of the book, I very much enjoyed it, as I have all of Trollope's books. As the saying goes, if you like this kind of thing, this is exactly the kind of thing you're going to like.

Note: Coincidentally, I was reading Henry Adams' Education at the same time as I was reading this. It's fascinating to consider they were both written during about the same time, the second half of the 19th century, when you consider how very very far about Adams' and Trollope's world vies seem to be.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
Not quite as humorous as Trollope's Barchester Towers but still a fun look at English country society especially in regards to the ever-present need to marry money! A satirical look at the extent to which money will excuse or obstruct breeding and manners (good and bad) in the matrimonial plans of both young people and their families.… (more)
LibraryThing member thorold
Trollope is always entertaining, but this book is a bit less interesting than some of the others. The central theme, "blue blood vs. new money", is one that has been worked over by so many 19th and 20th century novelists that there can't be much of interest left to say about it. Trollope plays around with the narrative conventions of the marriage-and-inheritance plot a bit, not least in his characteristic trick of "killing suspense" by warning us early on what is going to happen, then leaving us to wonder how he is going to get there. Thorne, Mary and Frank are good almost to the point of tedium, but they do get into a few good dialogues, mostly with Frank's mother and his aunt, the closest things we have to real villains in this book. Sir Roger Scratcherd should be a more interesting character than he is: obviously the character suffered from the necessity Trollope found of killing him off early, but there also seems to be a strong element of snobbery in the caricature. Real "rags to riches" railway contractors like Sir Samuel Morton Peto (who started out as a brickie) seem to have fitted into the upper classes of Victorian society much more easily than the fictional Scratcherd, with his brandy bottle under the pillow.

Two things that really irritated me in the story: firstly Thorne's insistence on keeping Mary (an adult) in the dark about her origins, even when he has told Frank and his father the full story. Even in the big revelation scene at the end, Thorne doesn't tell Mary anything about her new situation until he has discussed it with the Greshams and tried to get Frank to be the one to break the news to Mary. If I were Mary, I'd be a bit miffed about this patronising behaviour. Secondly the total lack of interest anyone shows in the situation of Mary's mother. Is she still alive? does Mary have half-brothers and sisters in America? Not even Mary (once she's finally been told that she has a mother) seems to care.
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LibraryThing member goldenphizzwizards
Since this is my first Trollope, I can't compare him generally with Dickens. I love Dickens' work for the satirical, comical characters combined with the inevitable justice and rewards given to those who are deserving. Dr. Thorne and Mary do come off far more saccharine with out the slight sneer Dickens uses to poke fun at his heroes, but they are genuinely good people and the journey is worth reading. The ending is expected, particularly if you've read much criticism of the period, but was sincere and honest. I finished the book smiling and will no doubt read more of Trollope.… (more)
LibraryThing member jensenmk82
I wonder whether any other readers have had the experience of watching Julian Fellowes's "adaptation" of 'Doctor Thorne' after reading the novel.

I was incredulous at the travesty Julian Fellowes made of what he said was one of his favorite novels. From beginning to end Fellowes's adaptation changes the plot, contrives scenes and dialogue that are not in the novel, alters characters, and turns the whole tale into a sort of burlesque that is very far indeed from the spirit of Trollope's novel. I also read half a dozen reviews of Fellowes's production. The New York Times review was worthless. Only one review noted that Fellowes made changes (but since the review was only of episode one and the alterations became more thoroughgoing as the story progressed, The Telegraph (I think it was) didn't comment on the extent of the changes. I don't think any of the people writing the reviews had read the novel. I'm very disappointed in Julian Fellowes, who claimed to admire Trollope. He makes several misstatements in his introductions, as when he says Trollope's description of Sir Louis Philippe Scatherd's death is extremely moving, while in the novel the character's death is not described directly.

As for this 1997 edition of the novel, James Kincaid's introduction is disappointing.

Kincaid is, or was, the Aerol Arnold Professor at the University of Southern California and author of The Novels of Anthony Trollope (1977), Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture (1992), and Annoying the Victorians (1995).

Kincaid's introduction is dominated by the notion that there are dark “energies" that are "at work” in the novel (xix). Kincaid likes Sir Richard Scatcherd, “a fully sympathetic character of great power and ability, drawn against his will into a world that uses him ruthlessly and then leaves him with no prospect but death” (xix). "Fully sympathetic," a character who browbeats his wife? As for the happy ending, it “is a happiness rooted in sacrifice and darkness, originating in a rape and ending in an ambivalently tragic suicide, the blood sacrifice of the railroad king so that true ‘blood’ may be preserved” (xx). In fact, there was a seduction, not a “rape” (ch. 2).

Kincaid would have us believe that Trollope’s novel is “subversive” (xx). “Louis Philippe forces the Greshams and even Doctor Thorne to recognise what they are doing and what readers must do to reach the land of comic fulfillment” (xx). This is a considerable exaggeration.

At the beginning of the novel, Kincaid says, “placid, gracious, rural England” seems doomed to give way to “the tidal wave of new invention, new money, new power sweeping over the country like its major symbol, the railroad” (xx). In fact railroads are not much mentioned, and are only one source, and not even necessarily the main part, of the source of the fortune of Roger Scatcherd, who is mentioned building “a harbor” before railways are mentioned, and has even been chosen to build the Panama Canal.

Doctor Thorne and Mary manage “to preserve, at least for now, the old values and the old forms” (xxi). In fact, in Trollope's novel such a victory is made to seem the inevitable outcome produced by the inferior values of the upstarts. If for Kincaid, the novel shows with “almost brutal honesty . . . the cost of winning what finally is a class war” (xxi), this also is willfully and luridly overdrawn — readers certainly do not come to Trollope because of his brutal portrayals of class war! “[T]he reader is asked to regard as a hero the very figure whose steadfast ethical and social principles rest on quicksand” (xxi). Again, this is not at all Trollope’s view or the view that the novel is organized around; it is, rather, the opinion of Prof. Kincaid.

Kincaid continues for the rest of the introduction, hammering round pegs into square holes with alacrity. The character of Miss Dunstable doesn’t fit his interpretation, but the American professor brushes this off as “just one example of Trollope’s sly and disruptive way of playing with the reader’s conventional expectations” (xxii).

Kincaid has nothing at all to say about the bizarre social position of Doctor Thorne, except to say (inaccurately) that he is “outside of class” (xxiii) -- it is really of Mary that this might possibly be said. Mary’s situation, oddly enough, seems not to interest Kincaid at all.

Kincaid’s conclusion, in its desperation to make the novel attuned to contemporary sensibilities, is also utterly anti-Trollopean. If Kincaid were to be believed, Doctor Thorne “makes us wonder if [the nostalgic pastoral idyll that was England] is worth the trip. In order to get there it is necessary to play very rough, strew some corpses around. Trollope lets us know that this feudal England will not be along for long and maybe was not worth recalling in the first place” (xxiv). It offers us “the illusion, and that is all it may be, that something in this world can come to good” (xxiv).

What an undesirable introduction for this novel! Is there a single reader who is led to read the novel sympathetically and with more pleasure and insight as a result? I doubt it. The tendentiousness of Kincaid’s introduction is underscored by the fact that none of the themes he divines is mentioned in the various reviews and appreciations that are reviewed in the interesting supplement at the end of the volume, “Anthony Trollope and His Critics,” which focuses on the reception of the novel.

I should note, however, that Hugh Osborne's notes to this edition are excellent and are a sufficient reason to buy the Penguin edition. It's too bad, though, that there are so many misprints in the edition: "fortume" for "fortune" (xx), "neice" for "niece" (xxi), "of" for "or" (376), "lest" for "let" (379), "stool" for "stood" (382), to mention only a few.
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LibraryThing member SandDune
Reading Doctor Thorne has reminded me why I usually enjoy reading classic fiction written in the nineteenth century, rather than historical fiction set in the same period. In my experience, while historical authors frequently get the practical details of their time period right, the opinions expressed are too often those of the twenty-first century. And in Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne, which as well as being a simple love story, is essentially a discussion of class and money, and how much the need for one overrides the desire for the other when choosing a marriage partner, the very different attitudes of the nineteenth century are very apparent. But rather merely accepting one set of attitudes,
Trollope looks at them, and questions them, quite closely, which makes this a much more thoughtful book than the plot would suggest.

The beginnings of the story of Dr Thorne lie more than twenty years before the period in which the book is set, when Dr Thorne's wilder brother seduces the sister of a stonemason in the town of Barchester, who was on the brink of marriage to a respectable tradesman.
The woman, Mary Scatcherd, becomes pregnant and when her brother Roger discovers the fact he attacks and kills the seducer in a drunken rage, and is imprisoned for manslaughter. When Mary's baby is born she is seemingly destitute, but her previous suitor announces that he will marry her after all, and emigrate to America with her, if she will only leave the baby. So Dr Thorne, very much against the norms of the day, and against his own principles that blood is everything, offers to take the baby and being her up as his legitimate niece.

So in twenty years time Mary Thorne is the acknowledged niece of Dr Thorne, living in the village of Greshambury where her history is unknown, and is halfway to being in love with Frank Gresham, the son of the local squire. But Frank's father has been building up debt after debt on his estate and it is absolutely essential in the eyes of his family, and in the eyes of the world, that Frank should marry money. And even without the debts it is surely impossible that a Gresham of Greshambury should marry a girl who is illegitimate... And meanwhile the outraged brother, of twenty years ago, Roger Scatcherd, has prospered enormously after his release from prison and has built up a very large fortune indeed ...

The plot is a little obvious with this one, but it's enjoyable none the less. I was a little surprised to have the characters from The Warden and Barchester Towers make very fleeting appearances indeed: Dr Thorne could be read as a stand alone book with no difficulty at all.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
This series just keeps getting better and better and for me, this one was the best so far. As much as I enjoyed the social commentary in the first two, it was refreshing to step away from the debate over who would be the new town Warden.

In this novel Doctor Thorne’s brother leaves his illegitimate child in the Doctor’s care upon his death. The Doctor raises her as his own daughter. As Mary Thorne grows up she spends many of her days playing with the wealthy Gresham children. Years later Mary and Frank, the only Gresham son, fall in love but he is told by his controlling mother, Lady Arabella that he must marry for money to save the family estate.
Scatcherd is Mary’s uncle on the other side of her family (her mother’s brother). He starts off as a lowly stonemason, but rises to power as he becomes wealthy. As the Greshams sink farther and farther into debt, Scatcherd’s control of their property increases. Upon his death he plans to leave his vast wealth and the Gresham’s home to his son, but if his degenerate son passes away everything will go to his next closet relative, who happens to be Mary.

As a novel progressed I began to realize that it was an interesting combination of “Pride and Prejudice,” “Persuasion,” and “Great Expectations.” Mary and Frank’s relationship mirrors the first. Frank’s entire family reminded me of Darcy and Bingley’s extended clan. Even though they all love Mary, they discourage the match because she isn’t a suitable wife for Frank. There’s also Frank's sister who turns down a proposal because her cousin tells her it's unacceptable, which brought “Persuasion” to mind. The tidy full-circle plot which features an orphan reminded me of Dickens. This is not to say that Doctor Thorne is a recreation of any other novel. The book just reminded me of some of my favorites in a very positive way.

Dr. Thorne is such a moral man and he has such strong protective feelings for his niece. Even though he could secure her future by sharing her potential wealth as an heiress, he wants Frank and his family to love her for who she is, regardless of whether she is rich or poor. That’s why this is truly Doctor Thorne’s story and not Frank or Mary’s. Doctor Thorne is trapped in the midst of this impossible situation and every decision he makes is with Mary’s best interest at heart. He is the best kind of man.

BOTTOM LINE: Unlike the previous two books, this one was an unabashed love story. The exploration of social standing and class are so beautifully written you can't help but root for Frank and Mary throughout the book. This has definitely been my absolute favorite of the Barchester books so far.

“There is no road to wealth so easy and respectable as that of matrimony.”
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LibraryThing member pgchuis
The story of illegitimate Mary Thorne, who is brought up by her uncle (Dr Thorne), and who falls in love with the son of the local squire, Frank Gresham. Frank falls in love with her back, but his parents want him to marry money, since they have mismanaged the estate so badly. I found this novel rather tiresome: there were endless discussions of what "good blood" the Gresham line was and whether it was appropriate for them to marry people "in trade", let alone an illegitimate woman. There was far less humour than I expect from a Trollope novel and about two-thirds of the way through I just wanted Frank to shut up about his plight, go out and get a proper job and marry Mary already. Everything seemed to drag and the same dilemmas were rehearsed over and over again.

Frank's father and sisters are, we are told endlessly, very fond of Mary, but they treat her disgracefully. Mary (and indeed Frank and Dr Thorne too) are a bit lacking in the personality department, although, on the other hand, Lady Arabella and Miss Dunstable were great characters. The story of Augusta, Mr Gazebee and Lady Amelia was a nice touch. I know it was intended to be history repeating itself, but the deaths of Sir Roger and then his son were dealt with at greater length than seemed necessary.

Overall, I was confused about what Trollope was saying about marriage and money and birth. The doctor is described as very proud of his birth and yet he brings Mary up in ignorance of her true circumstances, allows her to run around with the squire's children and to think of herself as a lady. What did he intend for her? If she had not so conveniently become an heiress, should she have married Frank? Should Frank have been told of her parentage before he proposed for the first time? Was he right to say it made no difference (or did he really mean that it was too late?
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LibraryThing member JBD1
This was the first one I had a little trouble getting into, but once I hit a certain point, I was completely taken in. This volume was a bit like a Jane Austen story but with some political intrigue included, which I quite enjoyed. Thoroughly excellent.


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