Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Things have come to a head in the Wilfong household.  The wife knows she has a problem, but the husband is sympathetic.  The wife has wanted a parrot for a long time.  The husband says she can have a parrot if they give away three guinea pigs.  Wife simply can't.  Wife thinks.

What if wife abstains from buying another book until she has read every single book already in the house?

Husband calculates.  That would actually save money, the parrot's initial cost and maintenance costing less each month than wife's book budget.  


I haven't come up with a name yet.  He's an Indian Ringneck Parrot.  My sister has been suggesting Bagheera, Baloo, Kaa and Shere Khan but I'm not feeling it.

Maybe something bookish?  Hercule Parroh kind of appeals to me.  I'm open to suggestions.

The Warden  (Chronicles of Barsetshire #1)The Warden by Anthony Trollope

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Warden is the first of of six books called the Chronicles of Barsetshire. At 157 pages it is the shortest but extremely interesting.

Septimus Harding is the warden of an almshouse for twelve bedesmen. Bedesmen are elderly retired men who are payed to pray for their benefactor.

A medieval bequest allotted a certain sum of money for the living of these twelve men and also the warden. At this time the twelve men were living off of a paltry sum that barely paid for their room and board while the warden was living in luxury in a large house, spending his evenings playing his beloved instruments and socializing.

John Bold, a zealous young man, sees the disparity and decides to take legal action against the warden so that the money can be more equitably distributed.

The Archdeacon, Mr. Grantly, who is also Harding's son-in-law, browbeats the bedesmen and also his father-in-law, insisting that the money is distributed at it should and the elderly men should be grateful for their living.

The story gets into the press because Bold has mentioned the lawsuit to a friend who writes for the Jupiter. The public takes a dim view of what they see as exploitation of the poor and abuse of authority by the Warden. The Church in Barchester begins to receive bad publicity.

Surprisingly, the Warden himself is guilt-ridden and worries that the bequest has not been carried out as intended. A further complication is that John Bold is in love with Harding's daughter.

I won't retell the story, that's just to get the ball rolling. What makes this story interesting is how well Trollope dresses his characters. There are no cartoonish parodies as in a Dickens or Austin novel. Even the Archdeacon, who is quite a blowhard, has his vulnerable side, as manifested in his relationship to his wife.

As in other Trollope novels I find myself asking, "How is this going to turn out?" The Warden is not a story of high action and suspense, yet there is a certain amount of "pressure" if you will, that urges one on to the end towards the resolution.

Another quality I enjoy in Trollope's novels like this one is that he shows how people think. Especially people who are doing things they know they should not be doing. It's insightful to see how they justify to themselves and their world why they are acting the way they are. Surprisingly, some don't try to justify themselves and honestly enjoy what they are doing for the sake of it being bad.

I only have the sixth in the series after this and since I am currently on a book buying fast, I don't know if I should read the last book or wait.

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  1. excellent summation... accurate and to the point... and i agree re Trollope: he is a writer for grown-ups and has a lot of insight that he manages to convey successfully to the reader... i would recommend you read them in order(he says, having read them all...); whereas it's possible to read them out of order, i think you might lose the feeling of consistency if you do them that way... how about the library?

    1. Mudpuddle you're the best! I always forget about the library because even if I go, I usually end up buying the book. Now I can't, of course.

      The good news is my library, which usually has very little, has the ENTIRE Chronicles of Barsetshire. Here's the best part: They can be downloaded onto my Kindle. That means I don't have to leave my house and when they expire they just disappear.

      That is especially good for me because I was notorious for forgetting to return books. I've paid so much in overdue fines, they should name a hall after me.

    2. you're a hero for supporting your local library! i didn't get what the Wilfong thingie up above there was about...?

    3. Sorry, Mudpuddle. I should have made it clear. I have a problem with buying books to the point that it will take me a few years to read all the ones I own.

      I really wanted a parrot so Josh and I made a deal. I can have a parrot if I don't buy another book until I've read all the ones in the house first.

      As for Wilfong. That is my married name. I started this blog before I got married and I haven't figured out how to change my last name on the blog. Even Josh can't figure it out and he's a computer programmer.

    4. amazing but not surprising, the name thing on the computer, that is... someday when they take over the world, they'll have to figure out humans: good luck with that... i understand about the books: if i lived for another twenty years(not likely), and read three books a week i'd never get through them all; i don't know how this happened: they just seemed to multiply... sometimes i imagine they're all looking at me accusatorily(sp)...

    5. Hi Mudpuddle. Unfortunately I do know how the books piled up in my house. I read a review somewhere and I'm afraid I'll forget about the book so I buy it and put it on the pile.

      Also, I must admit I get kind of a charge out of buying a book. Sort of like a little Birthday present for me.

      It's no fun checking the mail anymore since I know no more books are coming. Sigh.

  2. I've been promising myself a Trollope excursion for a long, long time; your fine posting persuades me that the procrastination must end soon. Thanks.
    BTW, I have resumed blogging with a new commitment at a new address:
    I hope you will stop by and visit every now and then.

    1. Hi Tim! I too will be going on a Trollope excursion. Now that I know I can download his entire Chronicles onto my Kindle. Take care!

  3. Hi Sharon.

    I love Chronicles of Barsetshire and I love the Warden.

    Septimus Harding is such a unique and unusual protagonist.

    Though most of the books in the series can be read stand alone, Last Chronicle of Barset which is the seventh and last book of the series, picks up threads and characters from the entire series. Thus I would not recommend it until last.

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi Brian. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the Chronicles and I will make sure to read them in order. Even though I don't own the others I just found out our library has them on digital loan so I am going to download them on my kindle.

      Have a good weekend. Hope it's not too cold in you neck of the woods.

  4. Happy IWD!! i dreamed about Glenn Gould last night, following his crystalline Bach renderings through a snow-packed auditorium in which sound seemed not to originate from one point, but surrounded the listener 360 degrees around... it was most edifying and enjoyable, hearing all the lines in such clarity... i knew what the piece was when i was a sleep, but forgot it as soon as i woke up... darn...

    1. Wow! What a dream. I wouldn't mind that kind of a dream. I seem to be suffering lately of dreaming I'm in a large city and lost. Probably flashbacks to when I was in New York.

      Do you have Gould's Bach recordings? I love them!

      Coincidentally, today I was talking about Gould with a Low Brass guy I work with. A tuba player and I are going to perform Hindemith's Sonata for tuba and piano (I should say for piano and tuba because the piano part is ten times as hard as the tuba's).

      Gould does a, how shall we say, original interpretation. The way he plays the last movement is radical. However, it is also more expressive than any other performance I have ever heard. It is also a lot slower, which would be wonderful, but my tubist isn't having any of it.

      Gould was a fascinating person. Some people think he may have been inside the autism spectrum. What do you think?

    2. yes.. Asperger's syndrome, maybe, wherein the sufferer is not quite autistic, but close to it... i've got some Gould/Bach but not all... i've read a number of reviews of his interpretations: the pundits seem to either love him or hate him... to me, he sings each and every note and seems to have a preternatural sense of exactly where to place it in the musical context; almost like he composes it himself: very attractive...

      what a cute peng... oops, sorry, parrot! no wonder it's worth a large number of books!

    3. forgot to mention: i was in some Hindemith-playing groups once; he's kind of an acquired taste, imo... and i'm not surprised the piano part is the hardest; well, it would be anyway, considering the limitations of the tuba... i sort of remember that H wrote a sonata or solo piece for every instrument... no?

    4. Hi Mudpuddle: Hindemith is definitely part of that group of twentieth century composers- Stravinsky, Copeland, Charles Ives- that you either like lots of rhythmic pulse with dissonance or it's just not your cup of tea. I can't explain it but I really identify with this style of music.

      As for Gould, he cost me a competition once. My teacher was a huge disciple of Gould's interpretation of Bach. For the competition I played a Toccata and Fugue a la Gould. The judge, a harpsichordist, informed me that she hated Glenn Gould and tied me for first. It was not fair.

      My little parrot is a cutie. He's really playful too. He likes to bounce up and down on my hand while I type.

    5. that's one of the reasons i never became a dedicated musician: the politics; it was only much later that i found out politics is in human nature, encountered everywhere and not to be avoided... sigh... difficult to look back and not regret, which wouldn't do any good anyhow...

      my vote is Hercule Parroh gets my vote... how nice to have a pet like that...

    6. Hi Mudpuddle.

      Well, I'm sure you have good memories. Is there a group you can join there, just for fun?

      I've decided to go with Hercule. Unless it's a female, which we won't know for three years. Then we'll call it "Hercaloo." He is nice to have. He's adorable!


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.