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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A trypical Trollpe novel, The Warden - and the set-up is ...

Trollope's first Barchester novel, The Warden, sets up the typically Trollopeian dilemma/conflict involving money, clash of generations, clash of families, and changing nature of the English economy and countryside. Here goes: in the 15th century (or so) a wealthy landowner, Mr. Hiram, left in his estate several tracts of land (amusingly, Hiram's Butts), a building, and a legacy with the idea that the rents from the land would go to the church to support the local warden and to run a charitable operation - what Trollope calls a hospital but we would call a home for the aged; the trust said it was to house elderly wool workers and pay them a couple of pence a day. Five centuries later: there are no more wool workers, so all agree the home will hold elderly, impoverished men. The land that Hiram left is now very valuable and produces significant revenue for the church, so the post of warden is now pretty cushy. And the amount stipulated in the trust is a pittance in daily revenue in the 19th century. The warden, Mr. Harding, is a nice gentleman but oblivious. Recognizing the pittance of the revenue he gives a few more pennies per day out of his own pocket - and considers this a personal sacrifice. His elder daughter is married to someone higher up in the clergy, Mr. Grantly, who thinks this whole arrangement is just fine - and he tries to sneak retired church employees into the home, rather than retired manual workers. Younger daughter, Eleanor, is serious about a young surgeon in town, Dr. Bold, who donates most of his time and practice to serving the poor. He is agitating for a realignment of the trust: use the money from the rental of the fields to improve the lives of the poor and elderly, not to fatten the churchmen. Grantly despises Bold, obviously - and we can see where this conflict is leading - or can we? It's a long novel, and Trollope is always adding complications and nuances as he builds is plot. So British, so fun.

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