The Warden

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The Warden

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1littlegeek
Avr 20, 2007, 11:34pm

OK, so I've decided to re-read and finally finish up the Barset novels so I'm starting a thread about each as I begin reading. Try and stop me.

What I am struck by, besides the delight of being with these characters again, is how little the world has essentially changed in 150 years. Sure, now it's corporate fatcats instead of church hierarchy, but is it really so different? Those that got shall get....

2littlegeek
Avr 20, 2007, 11:55pm

There's some nutter out there in lt land trying to convince people that Trollope can't write. To rebut such foolishness, I offer the following:

The bishop did not whistle; we believe that they lose the power of doing so on being consecrated; and that in these days one might as easily meet a corrupt judge as a whistling bishop; but he looked as though he would have done so, but for his apron.

How much is conveyed? How many layers of meaning, character and humor are displayed? Well, I like it.

3littlegeek
Avr 22, 2007, 12:03pm

Chapter 14 is quite full of sarcastic rhetoric about the press. Sounds suspiciously like today's "liberal media bias" arguments. I enjoy Trollope's use of language here, but it simply begs the question, of what other use could the press possibly be put other than keeping the powers that be honest? This presupposes the appearance of insolent nit-picking at times, but I submit that it's worth it. I guess in his time the Times did have the last word about everything, hence the references to Mt. Olympus.

Maybe they just needed their version of Rush Limbaugh to even things out a bit.

4lesezeichen
Avr 22, 2007, 1:09pm

Thank you for your enjoyable comments, littlegeek! When I first read the Barchester Novels, I was advised to skip the TW and plunge myself directly into BT, which I did.

But when rereading the series I will make sure to include it!

5littlegeek
Avr 22, 2007, 2:35pm

Yes, The Warden is a bit topical and antiquated, and yet there are still many striking parallels to be drawn between its time and ours. I have a Penguin edition with some very helpful footnotes.

I just finished it and will write more later, as I have a lunch date. I hope others will add to my comments.

6littlegeek
Avr 22, 2007, 6:27pm

It's really quite a bittersweet little story. You can't help but love the warden himself, such a gentle soul who means well, but at the end of the book the bedesmen are much worse off because of his "sacrifice." He was really only relieving his own conscience on the most superficial level. While the do-gooder reformers are reviled as buttinskis, they were trying to do something good for someone else. Sure, they're motives are not pure, they have selfish interests, too, but is that so horribly wrong? The warden's motives seem equally, if not more, selfish. He's too timid to fight the good fight, and because he only has the strength to save himself, his wards suffer.

It's the subtle moral ambiguity of the characters that really strikes me. The only really "bad" characters are the journalists and other writers. Everyone else at least has some defensible reason for their position, and complex and very human motives for their actions. It rings so true to life.

Trollope never stoops to stock characterizations or simple morality. It's truly a fine writer who can draw up complex characters and make them so believable.

It's sure clear why Dickens lovers hate Trollope, tho. He really lays it on thick!

7Pepys
Avr 23, 2007, 3:38am

So, finally, is it a mistake for a neophyte to begin with BT directly? Or is it much better to read TW first?

8littlegeek
Avr 23, 2007, 10:36am

You can totally skip The Warden and not miss anything. But it's short and introduces you to some of the characters. It's mostly a character study of Mr. Harding.

9godwulf
Avr 23, 2007, 10:53am

I haven't read Trollope in years, but I'm now getting my library sorted out and organized (this site is a huge help, of course), so perhaps I'll have to get back into him soon...now that I have some idea where those particular books are actually located.

The thing that I remember most about Trollope is that he embodies that rare quality of writers that permits him to go on page after page expounding on background and description - even devoting entire chapters to it - without creating a sense that the story has "bogged down" or been forgotten. That, and, of course, his extraordinarily dry and subtle wit, which is such a lot of fun.

The last time I became involved in a Trollope discussion, perhaps ten years ago, a couple of us in the group were all but banished because we had the (temerity? bad taste?) to suggest that Trollope might have intended that one of his characters be perceived and understood to be a lesbian. For some reason, several of the female group members were horrified by the suggestion.

10littlegeek
Avr 23, 2007, 11:14am

Only the females, how strange. What book was it? I've only read 2 Trollopes. I'll be on the lookout.

I agree, Trollope is very witty in that dry English way.

11godwulf
Avr 23, 2007, 1:10pm

I can't remember the name of the book. It might even have been one of the Barsetshire novels. I just recall that the character in question was the eldest, spinster sister of a family, who had reared her siblings after their parents' demise, and was described as being very mannish in all of her mannerisms and characteristics. I seem to recall that she and her family, when first seen, are attending some sort of party or get-together...that's all I can remember about it at the moment.

12stringcat3
Avr 23, 2007, 1:13pm

#8 littlegeek, I'm going to strenuously disagree with you about skipping The Warden. Barchester Towers flows from it almost without missing a beat, and you can't really appreciate the depth of the animosity in BT without having gone through the TW.

#9/10 I'm completely intrigued! I haven't run across anyone yet who earns "the L word." One of the delights of Trollope is his realistic female characters (although I hesitate to include the insufferable Lily Dale). Unlike nearly every other Victorian novelist, he never allows them to simper, and they often exchange very pragmatic, often cynical, opinions of the world that relegates them to mere appendages. Look at The Claverings, or The American Senator. Perhaps it's another reason why Dickens fans hate Trollope? Think of the impossibly saintly women he creates, such as Little Dorrit, or Florence from Dombey and Son, or Little Nell. Then there's the ridiculous Dora from Copperfield, and the one-dimensional Lady Dedlock from Bleak House. Not a flesh and blood wench in the lot! Oscar Wilde said, "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing."

13littlegeek
Avr 23, 2007, 1:17pm

I love Oscar.

I think you could drop right in to BT and just take it on faith that there's animosity and it really wouldn't kill it too much. TW isn't exactly brimming with plot and intrigue, and you really need some notes to explain all the topical political commentary AT is making, so I can understand why modern readers might want to give it a pass.

Although it does contain some scathing Dickens bashing, if you're into that.

14aluvalibri
Avr 23, 2007, 1:29pm

#12> stringcat3

Perhaps it's another reason why Dickens fans hate Trollope

I am a Dickens' fan and like Trollope as well. Does it mean I am weird?

15littlegeek
Avr 23, 2007, 3:14pm

No, there was just a war going on on another thread a while back. Some Dickens fan was trolling, or some troll was posing as a Dickens fan. Whatever.

Can't we all just get along? ;-)

16stringcat3
Avr 24, 2007, 3:06am

#14 - no, dear aluvalibri, it means you're an exemplary human being ;-) Not that being weird is necessarily a negative of course.
#15 - if we all just got along, it would make for some very boring posts. ;^)

About a month back I did have a civil but spirited set-to with tomcatmurr, a Dickens fan who pooh-poohs our beloved AT. I said that if Dickens were alive today he'd be writing TV sitcoms. And not the good ones.

To get back to The Warden: in vain I started a thread to discuss, or rather, to be enlightened on various aspects of the Church of England. No takers! I couldn't quite grasp what bishops can do and what they cannot (neither could Mrs. Proudie, of course), what deans and minor canons do, that sort of thing. Even some Web research didn't help. And I desperately want to know what a bishop's apron looks like. I keep picturing a very solumn gentleman in proper clerical black with a blue gingham thing tied around his waist. Very Monty Python.

17littlegeek
Avr 24, 2007, 11:44am

I keep thinking it's like the apron worn by Freemasons. I'm sure that's wrong, tho.

18Seajack
Avr 24, 2007, 12:01pm

I am a fan of both Dickens and Trollope - need to "bash" either.

Despite having been raised an Episcopalian, I couldn't follow all the minor offices myself. The Bishop can basically do just about anything in his diocese, and Deans can do anything in their catherdrals (unless over-ruled by the bishop). The rest of those titled gentlemen were some sort of secondary flunkeys. I'd assume "apron" is the inside/slang term for some sort of surplice-like vestment?

For What It's Worth, I found The Warden tedious. Recommending folks to read that one first might put them off Trollope ("I thought he was supposed to be clever and funny?"). To be honest, I'd have someone read it after Barchester Towers.

19digifish_books
Avr 24, 2007, 11:00pm

I read The Warden before Barchester Towers and I'm glad I did. It gave me a little insight into the characters of Mr Harding, Eleanor Bold & Dr Grantly. It was a nice little introduction to set the scene for BT. Perhaps if I'd read The Warden after BT, though, it could have seemed less interesting, because there is not as much humour without the likes of Mrs Proudie or Mr Slope :)

20stringcat3
Avr 24, 2007, 11:17pm

#17/18 It just now occurred to me to look in wikipedia, and sure enough here's the definition:

A short cassock reaching just above the knee, worn by archdeacons (for whom it is black) and bishops (for whom it is purple). Now largely obsolete.

Well, there you go.

I like The Warden much better the second time I read it, so there's an argument for reading it after BT. I've now contradicted myself. But that's okay: I'm a Gemini.

21alcottacre
Déc 20, 2007, 12:55am

I just finished reading The Warden this week, the first Trollope I have ever read, and I liked it. Reading it has encouraged me to continue reading the Barchester series. The only problem that I had with it is that being raised as a Baptist, I got completely lost in all the Anglican church offices and references.

22stringcat3
Déc 20, 2007, 1:14am

>21 alcottacre: alcottacre, I feel your pain! I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out why the bishop couldn't just tell various clergy what to do, but apparently the Anglican church isn't so hierarchical. And I was mystified by the references to the bishop's "apron." I kept envisioning something in gingham ...

There's a thread in this group called "Church Politics" you should look at.

23alcottacre
Déc 20, 2007, 5:12am

#22 stringcat3 - Thanks for letting me know. I will take a look.

24Hope97
Fév 13, 2012, 5:40pm

#14 i'm a dickens and trollope fan as well, I cant decide which i prefer because it depends what you are looking for from the book you pick.

25notmyrealname
Fév 13, 2012, 6:53pm

#24 Trollope if you are looking for awesomeness.

Not that that adds much to the conversation...

26mikeepatrick
Fév 16, 2012, 10:24pm

If you want 'Trollope in a Nutshell', there's no better place than The Warden. It's short and hits all his major themes. Plus, it's brilliant so there you go.

27riani1
Fév 20, 2012, 8:01pm

I've begun reading Trollope, and I've begun with TW. So far it's a bit slow--I'm alternating it with Lord of the Rings--but quite funny. I'm a completest, so I like to start at the beginning of a series.

28stringcat3
Fév 20, 2012, 10:03pm

>28 stringcat3: TW is indeed rather slow. Barchester Towers is rightfully the most acclaimed volume in the series. I appreciated TW more after I had read BT. Yet in both books I struggled with the plot dynamics driven by the various clerical offices - their roles and perks didn't make much sense to an erstwhile Catholic.

29thorold
Fév 21, 2012, 7:27am

A silly idea, and probably not even original: could we see The Warden as Trollope's Rheingold?
The composition of the Barchester novels (1854-1867) does roughly overlap in time with Wagner's work on The Ring (composed about 1850-1871, first complete performance 1876). And The Warden does seem to be a sort of Vorabend to the cycle, a short work introducing the main themes and getting us into the mood. Many of the main characters first appear in part two, and we have to wait until the final evening for the grand immolation scene. Trollope recaps almost as much as Wagner too... :-)

30ChocolateMuse
Fév 21, 2012, 9:21pm

>29 thorold: I like it :)

31thorold
Fév 22, 2012, 5:49am

>29 thorold:,30
It soon runs into the sand, though. Even if you identify Mr Harding with Wotan and the Archdeacon with Loge (Mrs Proudie doubling as Erda and as Fafner, perhaps?), you can't really turn Eleanor and Mrs Grantly into Valkyries. Johnny Eames is the obvious Siegfried lookalike, but it's Mr Crawley who actually gets to fight the dragon.

32Porius
Fév 26, 2012, 3:37pm

Who might the ineffable Low Churchman be?

33thorold
Fév 26, 2012, 4:38pm

>32 Porius:
Slope? I want to say Beckmesser, but that's a jump further away... Maybe Hagen to the bishop's Gunther?