Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Anthony Trollope has often been viewed suspiciously by critics because of his rapid rate of composition. Could a man who produced forty-seven major novels in his late-starting career be a genuinely first-rate talent? Trollope’s reputation has fluctuated and although he is still not considered one of the greatest English novelists, he is judged to be a highly gifted, professional, and sometimes even brilliant writer.

THE VICAR OF BULLHAMPTON embodies some of the characteristic strengths and weaknesses of his work. Unfortunately, the plot of the novel is a patchwork affair; there are two strands of action, and the one concerning the relationships between Mary Lowther, Harry Gilmore, and Walter Marrable, has little to do with the core of the novel: the figure of Carry Brattle. Trollope himself was aware of this deficiency. In fact, he remarks in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY that his purpose in writing the novel was to explore the situation of a “fallen woman” and to expose and remedy some of the terrible attitudes to which such a woman is exposed. He did not expect his readers, so he said, to look very carefully at his nominal heroine.

It should also be noted that Trollope was not interested in the process of Carry’s “fall” or in the feelings that led to it. Instead, through the opposing attitudes of the Vicar and Carry’s father, the reader is led to an understanding of another moral dilemma: How should others react to...

(The entire section is 412 words.)