Barchester Towers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Second and most famous of Trollope’s chronicles of Barset, Barchester Towers is a sequel to The Warden (1855). The story is set in the ancient cathedral city of Barchester (modeled on Salisbury), where the old bishop has died. The appointed successor is not, as some parties had hoped, the bishop’s son, Archdeacon Grantly, but an outsider, Dr. Proudie. The uxorious Proudie, his haughty wife, and their chaplain, the oily Mr. Slope, bring with them Low Church practices unpleasing to the incumbent clergymen, especially the Archdeacon and his mild-mannered father-in-law, Mr. Harding.

Like Jane Austen, his favorite among novelists, Trollope is a discerning observer of human conduct. Under his gaze, the trivial details of daily life in Barchester become entertaining and instructive. Several interlocking rivalries animate the clerical world of Barchester Towers. The bishop must choose a warden for Hiram’s Hospital, a charitable institution; and the candidates are the former warden Harding (supported by Grantly), Quiverful, (endorsed by Mrs. Proudie), and for a time Mr. Slope. Meanwhile Slope and his erstwhile patroness, Mrs. Proudie, vie for control of the impressionable bishop. Slope, though infatuated by the beautiful Signora Neroni, aspires to the hand and fortune of Harding’s daughter Eleanor Bold, a prosperous widow also pursued by Bertie Stanhope, the feckless but charming brother of Signora Neroni.


(The entire section is 586 words.)