My commentary contains minor spoilers regarding the outcome of several relationships portrayed in this series.
I have completed all six books of Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire series. Almost every page of the approximately 3,456 pages of the series is worth the read. Before I read these books, I had not read anything by Trollope. Now he is one of my favorite authors.
There are many themes and motifs developed during the course of the novels, including: the decay of the British class system, the virtues and strengths of quiet and non-aggressive people, the condition of women in society, religious hypocrisy and virtue, the mix of good and bad in everyone, and many others.
Though there are still numerous highly praised Trollope novels that I have not read, I feel that at this point I can say a few general things about the author.
Johnny Eames Adolphus Crosby
Trollope is often compared to Charles Dickens as his books are set in the same period and place and seem to cover similar situations and themes. Both writers spend lots of words exploring human relationships and psychology. Both also seem to exhibit a moderate and easy going Christian based philosophy in their writings.
There are major and important differences, however. Where Dickens was larger than life, Trollope seems in many ways the opposite, as he successfully attempts to reflect life the way it is, with incredibly nuanced, complex and contradictory characters and situations. Most of Trollope’s virtuous characters have flaws. Even his most pernicious creations exhibit virtues. Furthermore, despite Trollope’s realism, he does not penetrate into the really dark corners of the human experience as Dickens does. In addition, where Dickens was concerned with the plight of the poor and oppressed, Trollope seems much less interested in those subjects.
Many book series offer a reader comfort; they provide familiar characters and places. I do think that some of this familiarity is often paid for with a degree of superficiality. The plots and characters are presented in too safe a manner. Trollope mostly avoids such superficiality in these books, his realism and complexity providing substance throughout.
My favorite book of the series is Barchester Towers. Though the novels do not need to be read in order, I recommend doing so. There is a certain continuity of characters and events that, when read in order, give the plot and character development additional coherence. The last book in the series, appropriately titled, The Last Chronicle of Barset
“And now, if the reader will allow me to seize him affectionately by the arm, we will together take our last farewell of Barset and of the towers of Barchester. I may not venture to say to him that, in this country, he and I together have wandered often through the country lanes, and have ridden together over the too-well wooded fields, or have stood together in the cathedral nave listening to the peals of the organ, or have together sat at good men's tables, or have confronted together the angry pride of men who were not good. I may not boast that any beside myself have so realized the place, and the people, and the facts, as to make such reminiscences possible as those which I should attempt to evoke by an appeal to perfect fellowship. But to me Barset has been a real county, and its city a real city, and the spires and towers have been before my eyes, and the voices of the people are known to my ears, and the pavement of the city ways are familiar to my footsteps. To them all I now say farewell. That I have been induced to wander among them too long by my love of old friendships, and by the sweetness of old faces, is a fault for which I may perhaps be more readily forgiven, when I repeat, with some solemnity of assurance, the promise made in my title, that this shall be the last chronicle of Barset. “
My commentary on the second book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, Barchester Towers is here.
My commentary on the Fourth book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, Framley Parsonage is here and as it relates to gender roles here.
My commentary on the Fifth book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series The Small House at Allington is here.
My commentary on the Sixth book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, The Last Chronicle of Barsetis here.
My commentary on the relationship of Lily Dale and Johnny Eames in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series is here.
My commentary on Trollop’s unusual Pont of View is here.