While I have in the past greatly savored the first two volumes of Anthony Trollope’s classic oeuvre, The Chronicles of Barsetshire, I have never read the entire six volume series. Trollope’s mid 19th century novels revolve around the Church of England clergy in mythic Barchester (sounding an awful lot like Winchester,) and I started reading them back-to-back when I spotted the entire series available on Kindle for a mere 89 cents. The story essentially revolves around Mr. Harding, a good natured but slightly weak episcopal minister, trying to find his way, alongside his extended family, amongst the catty, ambitious, and manipulative ecclesiastical hierarchy plying its “business” in the shadow of Barchester Cathedral. Mrs. Proudie, the Barchester Bishop’s domineering wife, has to be among the most finely drawn and psychologically acute characters ever to find life on page. Trollope’s take on the all-powerful Jupiter and its arrogant editors is a stunningly accurate damnation of today’s media.
To be so amused, enlightened, and touched by the political machinations and backstabbing of the Barchester clergy is priceless, but to do so for the price of a Taco Bell burrito makes this Kindle offer – in my humble opinion, as Mr. Slope might say – one of the greatest literary bargains around. Here’s Trollope’s droll wit at its best, a section I highlighted late last night while reading in bed.
If you still consider my opinion of Trollope to be suspect – and I am sure I have given you ample cause to do so – then I trust you will hold in esteem the opinions of my betters. “His great, his inestimable merit,” said Henry James, “was a complete appreciation of the usual.” Or this, from Nathaniel Hawthorne, in a letter dated 1860: “Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope? They precisely suit my taste; solid, substantial, written on strength of beef and through inspiration of ale, and just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were made a show of.”
I rest my quill.