The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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September 6, 2011

Another visit to Barchester

      'I don't think I shall ever like that Mr. Slope,' said Mr. Harding.
      'Like him!' roared the archdeacon, standing still for a moment to give more force to his voice; 'like him!' All the ravens of the close cawed their assent. The old bells of the tower, in chiming the hour, echoed the words; and the swallows flying out from their nests mutely expressed a similar opinion. Like Mr. Slope! Why no, it was not very probable that any Barchester-bred living thing should like Mr. Slope!
      'Nor Mrs. Proudie either,' said Mr. Harding.
      'The archdeacon thereupon forgot himself. I will not follow his example, nor shock my readers by transcribing the term in which he expressed his feeling as to the lady who had been named. The ravens and the last lingering notes of the clock bells were less scrupulous, and repeated in corresponding echoes the very improper exclamation. The archdeacon again raised his hat, and another salutary escape of steam was effected.
      There was a pause, during which the precentor tried to realize the fact that the wife of a bishop of Barchester had been thus designated, in the close of the cathedral, by the lips of its own archdeacon:  but he could not do it.
I finished reading Barchester Towers last night, and although I enjoyed it very much, in some ways it seemed like I was just reading another, slightly draggier {maybe just longer} volume of The Warden.  The characters who return (Mr. Harding, Eleanor, the Grantlys) are very much the same; things happen to them, but they seem unchanged.  The new characters {Dr. and Mrs. Proudie, Obadiah Slope, the Stanhopes, Mr. Arabin, the Quiverfuls and the Thornes} are the ones who add something -- humor, freshness, and foils -- to the story.

I love the humor in Trollope's writing {aren't the paragraphs above much funnier than the way that scene would be written now?}, and the different ways he has of treating the same subject {for example, the love scenes between Mr. Arabin and Signora Vesey Neroni, and the wonderful scene when he finally proposes to someone else.} also love the fact that many of the characters seem one-dimensional, but then you realize that Trollope takes care to make sure that they're not. Mr. Slope, for example, is two-faced, and oily, and conniving, and silly, but there's always a little more than that.

He was still determined to be very tender and very pious, seeing that in spite of all Mrs. Bold had said to him, he not yet abandoned hope; but he was inclined also to be somewhat angry. The widow was bearing herself, as he thought, with too high a hand, was speaking of herself in much too imperious a tone. She had clearly no idea that an honour as being conferred on her. Mr. Slope would be tender as long as he could, but he began to think, if that failed, it would not be amiss if he also mounted himself for a while on his high horse. Mr. Slope could undoubtedly be very tender, but he could be very savage also, and he knew his own abilities.
I was just a little disappointed in Mrs. Proudie. She's a character you know something about before you read, and in the book she's almost a little flat. {I watched The Barchester Chronicles, the BBC adaptation of The Warden and Barchester Towers, a few weeks ago, though, and Geraldine McEwen - my favorite Miss Marple - had the perfect voice and mannerisms to bring her out.} I love the author asides in these books, and the fact that Trollope is perfectly happy to send his characters off into the forgotten when he's done with them.

Not right away -- maybe this winter -- but my appetite is definitely whetted now to read (or in one case, re-read) the other four Barchester novels.  {The adaptation is very good, too.}


Darlene said...

Trollope is unchartered waters for me but something to look forward to down the road. In the meantime I'll have to keep my eye out for those BBC adaptations!

Is it just me or does Alan Rickman get better with age?

Karen K. said...

I haven't watched the BBC adaptation but I really want to -- I LOVE Alan Rickman, he would be so great as Obadiah Slope. I thought there were some hilarious bits in the book. There was one part where Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope are fighting over something, and Mr. Proudie just wishes one would kill the other, so he wouldn't have to make a decision. He was so spineless!

Anonymous said...

Alan Rickman was excellent as
Obidiah Slope or Obidiah Slop as he was referred to sometimes in Barchester Chronicles. i watched many years ago on sunday night Masterpiece Theater in Ontario Canada. It came on right after All Creatures Great and Smal:-0

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