Book Review: The Warden by Anthony Trollope
17th March 2016
Anthony Trollope is one of the influential novelists of the Victorian era. Having never read any of his works before, I decided that I should try them out this year, thanks to a bunch of enthusiastic ladies at Instagram who introduced the author to me.
The Warden is very much like its contemporaries, detailed in the writing style, yet with some light and comical moments. What makes the novel stand out is the splendid way in which the novel presents the hierarchy of the Church, ache of the choice between love and principles and the role of media in influencing the common mass both in ethical and unethical ways. Perhaps this is one of the few novels that does a masterful depiction of various bodies that make up the society in the 1800’s. The Warden is the first in the series titled Barchester Chronicles or Barsetshire Chronicles.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?…Was ever anything so civil?”
This quote sums up the flow of the book. The Warden is a quiet novel, slow in pace yet with an odd beauty.The book is concerned with the trials of one Septimus Harding, a respected, well-liked clergyman in the cathedral town of Barchester, who is also the warden of Hiram’s Hospital, an alms-house for a dozen aged bedesmen. Mr. John Bold, a young reformer, is convinced that the hospital funds are being unfairly allocated and that the warden’s income of 800 pounds is unnecessarily given for the minimal duties he is expected to perform. Mr Harding is placed at the center of the controversy and struggles to form an opinion on the matter. His claim to the money is supported by the clerical community, especially by the forceful archdeacon Dr Grantly, the son of the Bishop and the husband of Mr Harding’s eldest daughter, while the public has differing opinions on the matter. John Bold is a dear friend of Harding and is in love with his younger daughter, and his tribulations of choice between principles and love are painstakingly presented.
I should say it took me five or six chapters to get in tune with Trollope’s writing. After I got accustomed to his writing style, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book. What I loved about The Warden were Trollope’s descriptive passages. In addition, here are many instances where the author gives his own views on the matter in addition to telling Harding’s story. This commentary of the author gives us pieces of gossip about the town and characters, which is a welcome change in the flow of the narrative. There are humorous sneers at newspaper men, politicians, clergymen, wives etc which had me chuckling in between. Trollope successfully shows the impact of newspaper/media in forming a public opinion as well as how the media personnel often stray from reality of the situation to create a controversy. Equally striking is the change in the bedesmen (who are fond friends of Harding and even receive some extra monetary benefit from his own fund in addition to what they are entitled to) who are blinded by greed and sign the petition against him, thus showing the rawness of human character that is reciprocated even to a benevolent soul.
I particularly like the fact that Trollope exposes both the goodness as well as the follies and weaknesses of each character. I found it difficult to support either side of the petition. Lovers of classics and Dickens would definitely like Trollope, but those more into the romantic fiction of the Victorian era might not enjoy The Warden. It is said The Warden is the weakest book of the Barchester Chronicles, so looking forward to reading the second book, The Barchester Towers.
What made the novel even more enjoyable was the fact that it was read with a bunch of amazing ladies on Instagram. We were united by a common love for Trollope There is a bigger group over at Goodreads, eager to explore Trollope’s works and have some meaningful discussions over the same. If you are interested, head over to Just a Bunch of Trollopes. It is the perfect place to discuss Trollope over tea and cake.
Title : The Warden
Author : Anthony Trollope
Publisher : Penguin
Published : 2012 (first in 1855)
Language : English
Pages : 256
Rating : 4/5
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About the Author
Anthony Trollope was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Among his best-loved works is a series of novels collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, which revolves around the imaginary county of Barsetshire. He also wrote perceptive novels on political, social, and gender issues, and on other topical matters.