Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Barsetshire. Fictional English county based, according to Trollope, on Somerset. A peaceful rural environment where families have lived for generations, Barsetshire is emblematic of traditional English values: respect for class differences, propriety, time-honored religious observance, and honest agricultural labor.


Barchester. Principal city in Barsetshire and the cathedral city for the Diocese of Barchester, a governance area established by the Church of England. Barchester attracts a wide variety of people whose lives are tied to the church and whose social and economic ambitions focus on its preferments and opportunities. As a center of religious and economic activity, Barchester is a place where newcomers and outsiders challenge the privileges and power of the establishment.

Bishop’s palace

Bishop’s palace. Official residence of the bishop of the Diocese of Barchester. The grandiose appellation of “palace” is a traditional term for a bishop’s residence and is more suggestive of the religious and social prominence of its residents than of their personal wealth. When two longtime parish clerics pay their first call on the new bishop, his wife, Mrs. Proudie, harangues the visitors with niggling complaints about the palace’s dilapidated condition. This scene throws light on Mrs. Proudie’s personality, revealing her to be a vulgar, social newcomer with little sense of propriety or grace. A further comment on Mrs. Proudie’s character may be adduced from the fact that she has converted a bedroom, a study, and the bishop’s sitting room into a suite of drawing rooms and a boudoir for her own particular use. As a result of this renovation, the bishop must work in a back parlor and conduct his clerical meetings in the dining room.

The palace is also the site of Mrs. Proudie’s first big party. It is a notable example of one character’s driving another from the room. In this scene, the beautiful, seductive, and disreputable Signora Neroni places herself on a sofa in a prominent position in a drawing room. As gentlemen jockey for position around the sofa, Mrs. Proudie’s dress is ripped, and she is forced to...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Booth, Bradford A. Anthony Trollope: Aspects of His Life and Art. London: Edward Hulton, 1958. A study of Trollope’s religious beliefs and their impact on Barchester Towers. Also examines the differences between high and low church clergy and the nature of the Church of England in general.

Clark, John W. The Language and Style of Anthony Trollope. London: André Deutsch, 1975. An excellent study of Trollope’s use of language and his recourse in Barchester Towers to English dialects, foreign phrases, euphemisms, and church language.

Glendinning, Victoria. Anthony Trollope. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. The best late twentieth-century biography of Trollope. Provides interpretations of the characters of Bishop and Mrs. Proudie, Signora Neroni, and Mr. Slope. Also connects several scenes in the novel to events in Trollope’s life.

Sadleir, Michael. Trollope: A Commentary. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1947. Uses Trollope family papers and letters as well as contemporary reviews of Barchester Towers to identify some of Trollope’s sources and discuss the book’s initial reception. Uses original documents to show the cuts in Barchester Towers that were demanded by the publisher.

Skilton, David. Anthony Trollope and His Contemporaries: A Study in the Theory and Conventions of Mid-Victorian Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1972. Discusses Trollope and Barchester Towers in the mid-Victorian context. Discusses the relationship between Trollope and such contemporary authors as Charles Dickens and William Thackeray.