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...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Booth, Bradford A. Anthony Trollope: Aspects of His Life and Art. London: Edward Hulton, 1958. Contains a study of Trollope’s religious beliefs and their impact on The Warden and subsequent ecclesiastical novels. Also examines the Church of England and its high and low wings.

Cockshut, A. O. J. Anthony Trollope: A Critical Study. New York: New York University Press, 1968. A study of Trollope and his times that gives the author’s views on human nature, property and rank, families, religion and the clergy, death, politics, and love, all subjects that inform The Warden, the first of his Barchester novels.

Glendinning, Victoria. Anthony Trollope. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. Considered the standard late twentieth century biography of Trollope. Provides insight into the characters of Mr. Septimus Harding and Archdeacon Grantly. Connects the plot of The Warden to actual ecclesiastical scandals in the Victorian church.

Sadleir, Michael. Trollope: A Commentary. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1947. The author first produced with Frederick Page the uncorrupted Oxford edition of The Warden. In this study, Sadleir uses Trollope family papers and letters as well as contemporary reviews of The Warden to elucidate some of Trollope’s sources as well as the initial reception of the book.

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. Situates Trollope and The Warden in the mid-Victorian world in which they appeared. Shows their relationship to other authors such as Dickens and Thackeray.