‘The Warden’ by Anthony Trollope

May I gently propose to you the gentle pleasures of this book?

It is totally inconsequential to modern life. It was written in 1855 and concerns itself with ecclesiastical conflicts. I was going to say in-fighting, but that’s too strong a term.

Briefly, Mr Harding is the warden of a ‘hospital’ in the sense of a home for 12 poor old men. His erstwhile son-in-law considers that the income he receives from the charity is excessive.  The bishop and his son, the archdeacon (who is married to a daughter of Mr Harding’s) get involved. The row extends to the wider world and… that’s it, really.

There are some choice points. There is a great satire on the influence of ‘The Times’. Charles Dickens, as Mr Popular Sentiment, and Thomas Carlyle, as ‘Dr Pessimist Anticant’, are mocked. Pretensions are ridiculed, but most characters are rounded and charitably treated. Essentially, as I have already over-emphasised, it’s a very gentle piece, set in the fictional Barchester, an amalgam of Winchester, Salisbury and the like.

It’s short (284 pages) and eminently readable, although not to a lot of modern tastes. I commend it to my readers.

(Footnote: I read this, for the second time, in the ‘World’s Classics’ paperback edition, with lovely little illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. I don’t know if this edition is still available, but it is a good advertisement for ‘real’ books.)


Sketch of Trollope by R. Birch after a photograph by Sarony. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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