Now adapted for TV by Julian Fellowes, Doctor Thorne is the compelling story in which rank, wealth, and personal feeling are pitted against one another.The squire of Greshamsbury has fallen on hard times, and it is incumbent on his son Frank to make a good marriage. But Frank loves the doctor's niece, Mary Thorne, a girl with no money and mysterious parentage. He faces a terrible dilemma: should he save the estate, or marry the girl he loves?Mary, too, has to battle her feelings, knowing that marrying Frank would ruin his family and fly in the face of his mother's opposition. Her pride is matched by that of her uncle, Dr Thorne, who has to decide whether to reveal a secret that would resolve Frank's difficulty, or to uphold the innatemerits of his own family heritage.The character of Dr Thorne reflects Trollope's own contradictory feelings about the value of tradition and the need for change. His subtle portrayal, and the comic skill and gentle satire with which the story is developed, are among the many pleasures of this delightful novel.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this novel Doctor Thorne’s brother leaves his
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.”
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
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
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.
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?