aPriL does feral sometimes 's Reviews > The Warden

The Warden by Anthony Trollope
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Activists and budding political strategists of all stripes should read 'The Warden' by Anthony Trollope. The plot revolves around characters who are ideologically opposed to each other. We would label the antagonists conservatives and progressives today. They do combat with each through the media (newspapers) and England's House of Lords of 1855 (when the book was published), but caught in the middle are unsophisticated non-political small-town villagers of England, interested only in community and marriage.

The concepts of class equity and fairness are pitted against institutional survival, and I was reminded once again organizing a majority is key to change.

This novel is my first Trollope, and I was pleasantly surprised! He writes like a polite mannered Charles Dickens. There isn't any subterranean growl and bite to him as Dickens has, despite his topic of the intersection of power and class, of personal morality and built-in institutional injustice. He simply wrote like the kind of journalist who does a lightweight local interest piece, while yet including all of the circumstances which leads to an inference of the Truth.

'The Warden' is the first in a series of novels called the Chronicles of Barsetshire. (I have not read the others - yet!) Although the books apparently revolve around employees of the Church of England and the small-town people of the imaginary village parish of Barsetshire, this particular novel was in response to an actual ongoing scandal. The Church was the beneficiary of financial gifts from centuries ago, set up by dying Church members who possessed savings and land they willingly donated to the Church in their wills. Often, the wills set up certain conditions for how the Church should use the donated money and land, which was usually for the benefit of orphans, or the elderly, or ex-soldiers, and the like. However, pious believers could not see the future. Land which had been undeveloped farm and woods later would become valuable real estate; and business earnings and rents which had been set up to be distributed in an equitable and sane dispersal for the maintenance of the Church's activities and the poor instead ended up in a 90-10% split decades later, with the majority percentage of earned annual funds ending up as churchmen salaries. The poor would barely receive any money for survival benefits, like housing-clothes-food, while Church employees lived like aristocrats on huge salaries. Many church jobs were sinecures.

The Warden, Mr. Harding, is a simple non-political village Church employee. He is profoundly grateful for his sinecure, given him by his brother-in-law, the conservative archdeacon Dr. Grantly, and his friend the bishop - of which the job is being in charge of a nearby group of apartments for twelve uneducated old men, set up by John Hiram's will of a hundred years ago. The old men are not assigned any money at all, just housing and food. Harding is not at all political, but he has become morally uncomfortable on occasion when he picks up his 800 pounds a year, and living in the nice house bequeathed by Hiram for whoever is assigned as Warden. However, Harding is happy for his youngest daughter, Eleanor, who is in love with the rich surgeon, John Bold, local progressive. Harding does not at all ever take into consideration Bold's politics, or any kind of politics, for the matter. Until Bold tells him he has contacted the largest newspaper about the Warden's unfair, maybe illegal, and definitely immoral 'job'.

Bold tells Harding to get a lawyer, as Bold has retained a lawyer to prosecute the Church over Harding's job. Eleanor, when she hears of what Bold has done, must choose between her love for her innocent father and the well-meaning Bold. Grantly is shocked by the attack on the Church and its dignity as well as the prospect of having Bold as a brother-in-law, while the old men fear for the loss of their apartments and, belatedly, losing the kindly Harding, who actually gives them a small monthly stipend out of his own pocket.

What will happen? Tears, gentle reader, lots of tears. This is a story based on reality, not a sweetened cozy, despite the emphasis on manners and polite society. I highly recommend this quick read, even if Trollope does dump a load of disapproval on the muckracking newpaper.
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Reading Progress

January 9, 2017 – Started Reading
January 9, 2017 – Shelved
January 9, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
January 11, 2017 –
page 43
14.73% "The archdeacon vs. the doctor!"
January 12, 2017 –
page 290
99.32% "Interesting battle of ethics."
January 12, 2017 – Shelved as: academic-notations
January 12, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites
January 12, 2017 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
January 12, 2017 – Shelved as: illuminating
January 12, 2017 – Shelved as: its-not-what-i-was-expecting
January 12, 2017 – Shelved as: literary
January 12, 2017 – Shelved as: politics
January 12, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Margitte (new)

Margitte Thanks for this great review, April. I read 'The Chronicles of Barset, 'or something like that, so long ago but still remember the great feeling it left me with. I have this series and would love to get back to it, hopefully this year. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. lolol. I think my reading year might be like that :-))


aPriL does feral sometimes Margitte - thank you for your comment. Lol!

I have been trying to have an interesting combination of 'currently reading', too. I aim at reading a science book, and a novel that has been on my shelves unread for years, and a GR club selection, or maybe an Audible audiobook for the convenience of listening. Doing this has led to inadvertent complementary juxtapositions!

Although I am a liberal, I am reading an autobiography by conservative John McCain. I am also reading a novel in the 'Outlander' series. I did not know McCain is a real life descendent of Scots who left Scotland for America about the same time that the fictional Claire and Jaimie came to America, give or take a year or two! It gave me a minute of silliness!

: p


Cecily You're off to a good start. The rest of this series is slightly lighter on church politics, but the strengths of this continue.


aPriL does feral sometimes Good to know, Cecily! I have the next book in the series close to hand near my bed.


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