1855. Oxford Univ. Press. Paperback. 294 pages.
From: the public library
In a nutshell:
Mr. Harding has a comfortable living as a warden for a charitable home for old men called Hiram’s Hospital. He is also precentor (one in charge of the music) for Barchester Cathedral, to which Hiram’s Hospital is attached. Mr. Harding is a mild man who lives with an unmarried daughter, Eleanor. His older daughter is married to the archdeacon of Barchester, a Dr. Grantly.
Scandal shakes up the comfortable way of life. John Bold, a young man looking for causes, questions the financial set-up of Hiram’s Hospital: why are the old men given such small allowances while the warden, whose job is easy, gets so much compensation? The cause is taken up by the media, and Mr. Harding finds himself the subject of scathing articles in the press. He wouldn’t mind giving up the post in light of the scandal, but his son-in-law the archdeacon has other ideas.
To complicate matters, John Bold and Eleanor Harding have long been nurturing affection for each other, a romance that is obviously destabilized by Bold’s newest occupation.
After reading one of Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels which was set in the early 1950’s, I decided I wanted to go back to the beginning of the fictional Barsetshire. This means going to Anthony Trollope who created the county in his own series of books, The Chronicles of Barsetshire. The Warden is the first book of the series.
My sister lives overseas at the moment and I suggested the idea of both of us reading Trollope’s The Chronicles of Barsetshire. She could get them for free on her e-reader and I will be getting mine from the library.
I definitely enjoyed The Warden. I thought the character of Mr. Harding was really quite sweet. My favorite part of the book may be when he ventures to London in an attempt to settle the matter in terms satisfactory to his own conscience. Unused to the city and afraid of being thwarted by his son-in-law, Mr. Harding goes out of his own comfort zone as he traverses around the city. He is committing little courageous acts that are not understood by others, or seem of little consequence to others, but they say a lot about his character.
As far as the scandal of The Warden, while aspects of it may seem arcane and very ecclesiastical, Trollope’s discussion of the role of the press seems still quite relevant to today. Trollope does not think highly of the press at all, and spends a chapter satirically and critically describing the press’ unchecked power for ruining reputations and lives.
Trollope’s writing is definitely full of humor and awareness. He anticipates readers’ reactions to some plot developments and addresses the reader directly on them. My sister and I both loved his humorous description of a tea party where the interactions of the young men and women are described as a skirmish or battle.
. . . young gentlemen, rather stiff about the neck, clustered near the door, not as yet sufficiently in courage to attack the muslin frocks, who awaited the battle, drawn up in semicircular array. The warden endeavored to induce a charge, but failed signally, not having the tact of a general; his daughter did what she could to comfort the forces under her command, who took in refreshing rations of cake and tea, and patiently looked for the coming engagement.
My edition included small illustrations scattered throughout the text which I thought were rather cute. I’ve scanned one in below. I don’t know who made them – I couldn’t seem to find mention of them in the book’s title page, etc.
Excerpts of others’ reviews:
The Captive Reader – “Honestly, the plot of The Warden is not terribly well formed. Even as the scandal is escalating, it was difficult to feel much concern when the narrator clearly didn’t, happily contenting himself with making amusing remarks about all the actors involved and the complications of their home lives.”
Old English Rose Reads – “His persona as the narrator come as being genial, jocular and slightly bumbling, like an elderly uncle in a Dickens novel (an impression not helped by his bearded and bespectacled physical appearance), but at the same time it is impossible to forget that as an author he is sharp and intelligent. . .”
Worthwhile Books – “Because Trollope took pains to go against the grain of the sensationalist literature of his day, many modern readers find his books slow going. But if you like rich character descriptions, British witticisms and a relationship-driven (rather than action-driven) story line, you might want to give him a try.”