Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 410
When Reverend Josiah Crawley, is accused of theft, the people of tiny Hogglestock quickly take sides about his guilt or innocence. By the end of the novel, the reader learn that it was all a misunderstanding, but Anthony Trollope reveals the workings of social pressure and the ripple effects emanating from this small town’s “crime.”
Reverend Crawley uses a check to pay his bill at the butcher’s, but later cannot explain how he got the check. As the news of the alleged theft spreads, the Church authorities decide to act against him. The Bishop of Barsetshire, based in the city of Barchester, is constantly goaded into righteous zeal by his ambitious wife. Bishop Proudie forbids Reverend Crawley to hold services until the case is settled, but Crawley refuses. This complicates the situation because even some of his supporters criticize Crawley for arrogance.
The situation weighs heavily on Grace, the Crawleys adult daughter. The man she loves, Major Henry Grantly, sides with her father and against his own father, who is the archdeacon of Barchester. Henry proposes to Grace, who cannot imagine accepting while her father is under a cloud. Legal charges are now being pursued, and Josiah must stand trial.
Meanwhile, the other townspeople go about their business. A romance is brewing between John Eames, Grace’s cousin, and Lily Dale, her friend. John works in London and socializes with a smart set including an artist who is painting a rich woman’s portrait. When Mr. Toogood is hired as Josiah’s attorney, he recruits John to help with investigations for the defense. The Arabins, from whom Josiah had obtained the check—although he has forgotten that fact—are traveling abroad, so Toogood sends John after them. Josiah remains in limbo as the clerical commission will not reinstate him until the civil proceedings are resolved. The sub-loot with the portrait painted grows more complex, including the suicide of the man in whose house the painting was being done.
Once John locates the Arabins, Josiah’s situation is resolved. Mrs. Arabin had forgotten to tell her husband about receiving a check and giving it to Josiah. Now that he is fully exonerated, Grace consents to the engagement with Henry, and his father withdraws his objection. John and Lily do not get together, however, but his artist friend marries the young woman whose portrait he painted. The Church authorities transfer Josiah to a more lucrative post in a different town.