Anthony Trollope was a masterful satirist with an unerring eye for the most intrinsic details of human behavior and an imaginative grasp of the preoccupations of nineteenth-century English novels. In "The Last Chronicle of Barset," Mr. Crawley, curate of Hogglestock, falls deeply into debt, bringing suffering to himself and his family. To make matters worse, he is accused of theft, can't remember where he got the counterfeit check he is alleged to have stolen, and must stand trial. Trollope's powerful portrait of this complex man-gloomy, brooding, and proud, moving relentlessly from one humiliation to another-achieves tragic dimensions.
Trollope also brings back the Lily Dale/John Eames story, originally presented in The Small House in Allington. Mrs. Dale, cousin Bernard, Julia deGuest and the Squire are all there too, rehashing a storyline that everyone hopes will have one resolution and one resolution only.
Bishop and Mrs. Proudie are along for the ride too. And of course she sticks her nose in where it has no business at all. All the familiar prelates are there too: Mark Robarts, Archdeacon Grantly and Septimus Harding, our oldest friend of all. And yes, these characters have all become friends over the six volumes, good friends, as a matter of fact. I feel like I’ve known them all my life.
This is a bittersweet novel, as you might expect when a series comes to an end. Just like in real life, though, people die and even when it’s expected or at least accepted, it feels like a sucker punch to the gut. The surprising thing is how deeply affected Trollope is as he writes the final couple of chapters. You can literally feel his pain. He will miss these characters just as much as I will.
”To me Barset has been a real county, and its city a real city, and the spires and towers have been before my eyes, and the voices of the people are known to my ears, and the pavement of the city ways are familiar to my footsteps. To them all I now say farewell. That I have been induced to wander among them too long by my love of old friendships, and by the sweetness of old faces, is a fault for which I may perhaps be more readily forgiven, when I repeat, with solemnity of assurance, the promise made in my title, that this shall be the last chronicle of Barset.”
Farewell Barset. I loved getting to know you. A reread is definitely in my future, but that first time meeting with Trollope’s captivating characters cannot be repeated. I will have to cherish that memory for the rest of my life.
2007, Blackstone Audiobooks, Read by Simon Vance
Barchester’s well-loved characters assemble one final time in The Last Chronicle of Barset; and true to form, Trollope proves himself a worthy storyteller as he weaves the threads of this final tale. The pitiful and ornery Mr. Crawley is accused of stealing Mr. Soames’ cheque, an incident which creates all manner of grief. Major Grantly falls for Grace Crawley, and his father, the Archdeacon, is outraged. John Eames, now a wealthy man by the generosity of the late Lord De Guest, persists in his love for Lily Dale while amusing himself with coquette Madalina Demolines, an alliance of which no good can come. The affairs of the Dobbs Broughtons collide with those of the wealthy Van Sievers, and at the heart of the conflict, aside from money of course, is a troublesome painting of “Jael and Sisera.” The detestable Mrs. Proudie meets a just defeat at the hands of Mr. Crawley and Dr. Tempest. And finally, Septimus Harding, the gentle, worthy, and now venerable protagonist of The Warden, where the chronicles began, arrives at the end of his life surrounded by family; and is the subject of a beautifully poignant farewell by Trollope.
As always, Trollope kept me wholly entertained. His humour, which I adore, created this laugh-out-loud moment for me when John Eames is cautioned by his friend that his dalliance with Miss Demolines, which he believes to be a harmless friendship, is not what it appears:
“I know the bird better than you do, and I strongly caution you to beware of the bird. The bird is a bird of prey, and altogether an unclean bird. The bird wants a mate, and doesn’t much care how she finds one. And the bird wants money and doesn’t much care how she gets it. The bird is a decidedly bad bird, and not at all fit to take the place of domestic hen in a decent farmyard. In plain English, Johnny, you’ll find some day, if you go over too often to Porchester Terrace, either that you are going to marry the bird, or else that you are employing your cousin Toogood for your defense in an action brought against you by the venerable old bird, the bird’s mamma.” (Ch 75)
I’ll miss the characters of Barchester and the fabulous Simon Vance, but as all good things must come to a close, The Last Chronicle of Barset does a wonderful job of achieving that end. Highly recommended!
By now, you're probably wondering why I didn't hate this novel. Well, while all of these characters are maddening, somehow Trollope also manages to makes their trials and tribulations quite intriguing. And at least one of them gets his or her comeuppance. Trollope weaves in several subplots as well, inlcuding that of Grace Crawley, a young woman as principled as her father who refuses the proposal of the man she loves, reluctant to tie his family to her father's possible shame. And John Eames, who has loved Lily Dale forever. There are plenty of other characters to admire, among them those trying to help the beleaguered Mr. Crawley. (Most memorable is the goodhearted lawyer Mr. Toogood.)
As others have mentioned, the subplot surrounding John Eames's friend, the painter Conrad Darymple, doesn't quite fit. Perhaps it's true that Trollope stuck it in to come up with the number of pages required by his publisher. Nevertheless, The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire is an entertaining and engaging book, a fitting conclusion to Trollope's delightful six-volume chronicles.
The main story focus on the mystery whether Crawley stole a check or not. A stern priest with a black mood, hard to love, but not difficult to feel sympathy with. He ruins things for himself and his family with his rigid view of Christian duty. Masterful portrait by Trollope. All the main characters becomes involved one way or the other in this story - Mrs Proudie steps onto the scene again - more sinister than ever - in a class of the wills with Crawley. What a confrontation. Oh my. Crawleys daughter Grace who are courted by major Henry Grantly, son of Archdeacon Grantly (The Warden) form the main romance. Unfortunately dull Lily Dale reappears but I already lost interest in her in The Small House at Allington. I liked Johnny Eames and his search to redeem himself in the eyes of Lily. Why is a mystery, but he's much more grown up now.
Trollope also says a beautiful and serene goodbye to old sick Harding The Warden, and it feels like a full circle. Trollope clearly have a hard time letting Barchester go - is that why it's so long? It would have been much stronger if some of the other story-threads had been edited out. But who am I to complain, really? In the company with Simon Vance (audiobook-narrator) and Trollope, listening to the end of a fantastic victorian series.
Goodbye Crawley, goodbye Harding. Goodbye all you dear people of Barchester. On to Palliser, I go.
By a large margin, the worst subplot dealt with Johnny's friends in the city. I didn't care about them and it wasn't just because they weren't in previous Barsetshire books. The creatively named but rather dull artist Conway Dalrymple decided to paint heiress Clara Van Siever to try and make a match. Clara was also a somewhat flat character. Conways' amusement, Mrs. Dobbs Broughton, did provide a bit of interest with her hilarious, overly Romantic notions of love, drama and sacrifice but not enough to enliven the plot.
Lily Dale's love problems pick up again from The Small House at Allington, when she was jilted by Crosbie but refused to marry Johnny Eames, the man who had loved her all along. Crosbie's wife has died and he tries to renew his suit while Johnny remains as persistent as ever. Trollope slightly shifted his characterization of Eames, so instead of an awkward but sincere clerk, he comes off more like another Crosbie.
The main plot involves the trials of Mr. Crawley, Trollope's standard class-conflicted love story and more of Dr. Grantly's infernal thundering. Not only is Crawley accused of theft, but he is also POOR, which rankles Archdeacon Grantly to no end. Mr. Crawley experiences all the humiliation in such a position - possibly more than anyone else could. He's sympathetic, but deeply flawed and manages to have superiority and inferiority complexes at the same time. Crawley was always more intelligent and talented than his old friend Mr. Arabin (they used to take walks in the mud and call each other Frank and Joe) so he thinks he's a little better in that respect and perhaps more deserving. At the same time, he's always hyperaware of his position as a poor curate and won't inflict himself on anyone. However, he's so mired in poverty that it becomes another way that he's better than others - more like a true Christian, and if other people are uncomfortable around him, that's their own fault. The ordeal nearly drives him insane - or at least to contemplate if he is. Mrs. Crawley remains admirable and steadfast in her support of her husband.
The archdeacon violently opposes the marriage of his son and Grace Crawley. Again, Trollope half-mocks all his histrionics, especially in comparison to the calm, tactful and knowing Mrs. Grantly. She expertly handles the situation and always has a tart rejoinder to Dr. Grantly's angry mutterings. The men - Crawley and Grantly - are much more emotional, capricious and difficult than their practical wives but luckily both recognize how fortunate they are in marriage. In one good scene, Dr. Grantly appeals to his friend, Lady Lufton senior, to support him but of course she can't, having gone through something similar in Framley Parsonage. Now, she's happy with her daughter in law, the former Lucy Robarts.
Will the mystery of the theft be cleared up? Will Grace and the major marry? If you've read any Trollope books before, you'll know how it'll end, but I can't say that I read Trollope for plot. He describes Mr. Harding from The Warden and Barchester Towers - he's living with his daughter and her family, old and out of health. Trollope poignantly details his quiet life - happily playing with his granddaughter and wistfully remembering his former position and his violincello. Had similar mixed emotions for this last book - good while I was reading it, but sad to know that the Barsetshire chronicles were at an end.
TLCoB's main theme is pride (a theme also explored in He Knew He Was Right), which is sounded in its major key in the story of the penurious and arrogant, over-educated curate of Hogglestock, Josiah Crawley, who finds himself accused of stealing a cheque for £20 (worth at least six times that amount in 2007 money); the matter proves especially thorny when he is unable to remember how he obtained it, how long he had it, or how he disposed of it. The bishop's wife, the Low Church Sabbatarian Mrs. Proudie (who had such a memorable part in the second book of the series, Barchester Towers), seizes upon this scandal as an opportunity to drive a High Church opponent to his knees, if not out of the (Anglican) Church entirely, and dragoons her reluctant husband into convening a formal ecclesiastical court proceeding against Crawley even before the secular court has rendered its verdict.
Subplots depicting minor (and often comic) permutations of pride involve the wooing of Crawley's eldest daughter Grace by the widower son of Archdeacon Theophilus Grantly (who is a staunch High Church opponent of Mrs. Proudie and her allies), Major Henry Grantly; the row between Archdeacon Grantly and his son, largely over a refusal to communicate on the matter of Grace (oooh, symbolism!); the continued wooing of Lily Dale by Johnny Eames (a continuation of a major plot from the fifth book, The Small House at Allington); Eames' flirtation with an adventuress, Madolina Demolines; Eames' scapegrace artist friend Conway Dalrymple and his simultaneous flirtations with the heiress Clara Van Siever and the wife of an alcoholic financier, Dobbs Broughton; with a supporting role given to the very aged star of the first book, The Warden, the Rev. Septimus Harding, who epitomizes humility.
While there are many fine, even comic, scenes to be found here, TLCoB takes entirely too long to finish, even by Trollope's casual, "triple-decker" standards. The book drags on for over a hundred pages after the Crawley plot is finally resolved; the leave-takings are as excruciatingly interminable as those of the final Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King. If all the dangling plot threads aren't resolved entirely to the readers' satisfaction, things for the most part end well rather than otherwise: time will doubtless dull the edges of the bouts of torpor encountered while actually reading this volume, leaving a mostly roseate glow to warm one's memory.
The love stories of Lily and John as well as Grace and Major Grantley are very well described. I agree with all who have written that if you want to start reading Trollope, start with this series of novels :-)
The last chronicle has been as enjoyable as any, but I'm not sure there was any need to introduce new characters. The Dalrymple/Broughton etc. storyline was entertaining enough, but who are these people? I would rather have been brought up to date on the Greshams, the Luftons or the Thornes.
Lily Dale. Ugh. I'm glad that she had the opportunity to see Crosbie and realize how horribly stupid she had been about him. I'm glad she finally got rid of boring old Johnny Eames. (Really, if you don't find someone sexually attractive, just don't marry him, no matter what your friends think.) But if she's so pretty, why, in the couple of months she spent gadding around London, did Trollope not find her someone suitable? Jeeze, give the girl a break.
As for the Crawley plot, it was kind of boring in a way, yet offers an opportunity for Trollope to riff on his favourite subject: what makes a truly good man? Crawley is eccentric, but his internal soul searching is fascinating, at least to me. This is where Trollope shines as a novelist.
Barchester Towers charmed me with its humor, and The Last Chronicle of Barset affected me with its pathos. Trollope's perceptive observations of human nature have a timeless quality. I was particularly moved by his description of the elderly and frail Septimus Harding, my favorite Barsetshire resident. Rev. Harding's son-in-law says of him that “he lacked guile, and he feared God,--and a man who does both will never go far astray.” I can't imagine a better epitaph for a life well lived. This series has earned a spot near the top of my all-time favorites list. Highly recommended.
But more importantly, when read at the end of the Barsetshire sequence, this is simply a masterpiece. All the great characters return- Mrs Proudie, Archdeacon Grantly, Miss Dunstable and even the odd mention of Miss Thorne of Ullathorne. At times I couldn't sleep for thinking about the book, and I'm pretty good at sleeping. And you get a couple of new ones too: the aforementioned Miss van Siever, the frabjous Miss Demolines and Mr Toogood for good measure. Fittingly, the book more or less closes with the death of Mr Harding, the perfect Christian, the perfect gentleman. RIP.
One word, too, about the introduction: if you're not an academic, you need to know something about my kind. When the general populace takes a liking to a novel, the academic response runs like this: first, rejoice in the public's interest in a novel- offer courses on it, discuss it, laud it. Second, start to complain about the public's common-sense reading of the novel. Point out 'complexities' and 'difficulties' that the general public is, so my kind suggests, incapable of noticing. Third, build tremendous theories about the subversiveness of these complexities (as the introduction to the Penguin edition does): the public likes Barsetshire because (so we say) it's so peaceful and lovely (this is Barsetshire as 'The Lark Ascending'). It's nice that the masses read long old novels still, but, pshaw, really, it's much more complex than that! This book is dark and gloomy! This book undermines Biblical law! This book brings into question social norms! And (enter the theory) Trollope is really a tremendous critic of moralizing! (Barsetshire as The London Symphony). Of course, this is all bunk. Nobody could read this novel because they wanted The Lark Ascending *on its own,* without any of that other stuff. The plight of brick-makers and the poorer clergy is pointed out quite noisily and it's really quite moving. The book is complex. But it isn't complex because Trollope is criticizing the morality of his day, let alone the bible. It's complex because the relationship between moral ideals and actual life is complex. And, although it isn't at all subversive, The Last Chronicle is interesting because it criticizes exactly the same things that morality and the bible tell you to criticize: greed, pride, dishonesty and so on. Trollope doesn't pretend that any of us avoid actually being greedy or proud or dishonest, but obviously thinks we can and should- like the wonderful Mr Harding. Okay, rant over.
Major Grantly is in love with Grace Crawley, but because of the charges against her father, she refuses to marry him because she doesn’t want to dishonor his family. There is also the continuing love triangle between Lily Dale, Johnny Eames and Adolphus Crosbie, in the last book we saw Crosbie jilt Lily Dale. Then Lily turned down Johnny Eames out of some strange devotion to her undying love for Crosbie.
I’m glad we returned to those characters because I was so dissatisfied with the ending of their story in the last book. I was thrilled when Lily decided she could never marry Crosbie, not matter what his situation was. At the same time her reasoning made no sense to me. She didn’t want to marry him because in sticking to her original decision he would love her more … what?!? Regardless, their story was still my favorite of this book.
The book ends in the same way the series began, with Mr. Harding. As he grows older and then finally passes away at the end of the book, it is the end of an era in their small community. The beloved clergyman never knew just how much he meant to his parishioners. Mrs. Proudie on the other hand was a grating on the nerves of everyone she met. She dies at towards the end of the book too, finally freeing those around her from her overwhelming, forceful presence.
BOTTOM LINE: Like most of the books in this series, it took me a long time to get into it. The story takes a while to warm up, but once it does you find yourself caring about the people of Barsetshire and their problems. You definitely have to put in the time and effort at the beginning, but it is worth it. I’m glad I finished the series, but it didn’t end with a bang for me.
This was a much bigger undertaking than I first expectedit would be. There’s was definitely a feeling of relief and accomplishment that came with finishing this final book.
Now that I’ve made it through all six books in the Chronicles of Barsetshire I definitely understand why they are a staple the western literature canon. They are some of the first novels to embrace the minutia of small community life. Trollope captures an instantly recognizable world and many of the books that followed, like Middlemarch, would not have happened without this series.
I struggled at times with the amount of detail Trollope goes into. I cared the most when I was able to connect with a character, some of whom will stick with me for years. My favorite parts were the quiet stories of strength or love. When a woman stood up for her beliefs or a man found love in his later years.
Anyone who picks up The Last Chronicle of Barset would almost certainly already be a Trollope fan and have read previous books in the series. This one will not disappoint; in fact, I completely wallowed in it and did not want the story to end. However, I couldn't help thinking about the modern conveniences we enjoy compared to Trollope's time -- especially as the truth about Crawley's £20 became clear. If only they had telephones, or email, or Facebook! Crawley would not have suffered for so long. But then The Last Chronicle of Barset would have been a much shorter and less pleasurable book.
Listened to audiobook. More than half the fun probably. My imagination just can't "do the voices" that well.
Along with the very sad story, we have the delight of Mrs. Proudie, the usual rough road to romance, and the delightful characters we've known an loved for so long. This is an excellent, complex novel, second only to Barchester Cathedral in the series.
I'm sorry it's over, but glad that I've got so much more Trollope to read, now!
This final book in the Barsetshire series brings together characters from all the previous books. I love the way so many things come together in this book.
I have loved the entire series, although I did prefer them when they were under 400 pages. Next up the Palliser novels.
minister charged with cashing check.
his daughter's engagement therefore in trouble.
lily 's former boyfriend who dumped her wants her back. another guy wants her too.