Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Barchester. English town that Anthony Trollope based on the cathedral city of Salisbury in the west of England, as the locale for his novel about various ecclesiastical tensions and reforms and their cultural, economic, political, as well as religious implications. The mid-nineteenth century was a period of fervent upheaval in Victorian society, and the privileges and wealth of such institutions as the Church of England came under scrutiny. Barchester, because it is a community largely religious in character, with its religious buildings, political intrigue, and ethical dilemmas, provides a perfect place in which to explore those reforms and their effect on the guilty and the innocent—especially the warden, Mr. Harding.

Barchester Cathedral

Barchester Cathedral. Seat of the bishop of Barchester. The close, the building complex surrounding the cathedral, provides the main physical setting for the novel. The magnificent Gothic church and attached collateral structures and the remunerative livings that go with them present the target for both Trollope’s satire and the reformer’s jibes. Trollope describes the close and its occupants, as he does throughout the entire novel, in often contradictory ways. On one hand, the buildings and their occupants are unquestionably examples of a church rich in money and privilege, but they also represent a tradition rich in architectural beauty and in spiritual value. It is the tension between these conflicting views that proves the fuel for Trollope’s...

(The entire section is 634 words.)