Trollope’s popular fame rests on his six Barsetshire novels. Taken as a whole, they are interconnected by characters who appear in more than one of them, a technique that Trollope was to use again in his second series, known as the Political novels. The Barsetshire series established the novel-sequence in English fiction.
The most famous of the Barsetshire series is Barchester Towers. It is typical, however, of the entire chronicle, with its fine ironic tone and pleasantly complicated situations. Though the type of plot is social satire, no problems of social significance are given serious consideration, as its chief purpose is entertainment.
The series was conceived one summer evening in Salisbury, but the settings are, for the most part, in the imaginary west-country county of Barset and its chief town, Barchester. Barchester is a compilation of the many counties Trollope visited in his position as a civil servant. Barchester’s railroads and roads, its great lords and their fine castles, its squires and their parks, its towns, its parishes, and its rectors and their churches are all totally fictitious. From his careful observations and memories of his travels throughout England, however, Trollope pieced together a detailed map of Barchester. Thus, it has a totally convincing reality, based not particularly upon the geographical but rather upon Trollope’s sharp insight into the moral physiognomies of his characters.
The first book of the series, The Warden, sets a pattern to which Trollope adhered in the later books. In The Warden, the focus is upon a problem concerning the proper use of church endowments. Using his vivid imagination, Trollope set in motion the issues and conflicts that surrounded the problem and how it was approached by the various people involved, people with various modes and degrees of moral sensibility.
When Trollope returned to the milieu of The Warden in Barchester Towers, he introduced a number of subplots, all related to...
(The entire section is 836 words.)