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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June 28, 2015

Mr. Trollope, Miss Austen, and Doctor Thorne

The one and only heir to Greshambury was named as his father, Francis Newbold Gresham. He would have been the hero of our tale had not that place been preoccupied by the village doctor. As it is, those who please may so regard him. It is he who is to be our favourite young man, to do the love scenes, to have his trials and difficulties, and to win through them or not, as the case may be. I am too old now to be a hard-hearted author, and so it is probable that he may not die of a broken heart. Those who don't approve of a middle-aged bachelor country doctor as a hero, may take the heir to Greshambury in his stead, and call the book, if it so please the, 'The Loves and Adventures of Francis Newbold Gresham the younger.'

As I've been reading (not reading ,,, delighting in, yearning for more of, already wishing I could re-read...) the #6barsets, I know I haven't been very good about writing about them here.  But I think it's good, sometimes, when it's more about the books, and about sharing them with friends.

I loved Doctor Thorne, as much as I loved The Warden and Barchester Towers.  Some of the characters from these first two, closely related books make cameo appearances in this one,  and there's another connection, as Doctor Thorne is a cousin of the Thornes of Ullathorne. But we're in a different place, meeting new people.
Miss Austen was surely a great novelist. What she did, she did perfectly. Her work, as far as it goes, is faultless. She wrote of the times in which she lived, of the class of people with which she associated, and in the language which was usual to her as an educated lady. ... Heroes and heroines with wonderful adventures there are none in her novels. Of great criminals and hidden crimes she tells us nothing. But she places us in a circle of gentlemen and ladies, and charms us while she tells us with an unconscious accuracy how men should act to women, and women act to men. It is not that her people are all good; -- and, certainly, they are not all wise. The faults of some are the anvils on which the virtues of others are hammered till they are bright as steel. In the comedy of folly I know no novelist who has beaten her. The letters of Mr. Collins, a clergyman in Pride and Prejudice, would move laughter in a low-church archbishop.
from a lecture Anthony Trollope gave in 1870

I definitely sensed a difference between this book and the first two. The humor was more delicate, less broad somehow. Earlier on, I noted a wonderful scene where Miss Oriel, a friend of the family, is teasing Frank Gresham about an alleged offer of marriage; a moment later, though, she is alone in the garden, suddenly serious, realising that she cannot make light of something that is so important.  In this and other ways, I was thinking of Jane Austen as I read, so of course I was enamored.  {Thanks to Lisa for pointing out that Mr. Trollope thought very highly of her writing.} And I was especially fond of some of this book's supporting characters, especially Miss Oriel and Miss Dunstable, the older, plainer, much wealthier spinster who is thrust on Frank Gresham as a suitable wife.

And I don't think there's any question of who the hero is. Doctor Thorne is a lovely character. As a physician and friend. he connects all of the characters, and is their very human moral compass. I have a book that's an encyclopedia, of sorts, of Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire novels, and it mentions that some of Thirkell's characters are descendants of Doctor Thorne and one of the women in this book. Hmmm. There's no hint of such a marriage in Trollope, so far,  so I'm not yet sure whether it was Mr. Trollope or Mrs. Thirkell who cooked that up.  If you know, please don't tell me ... it's a delicious idea, and I'm looking forward to finding out.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I am so happy to have JoAnn and Lisa reading along for all or some of the #6barsets,  I realized that I had gotten the order of the middle books wrong, so here's our updated schedule:

The Warden
. . .
Barchester Towers
JoAnn, on Barchester Towers
. . .
Doctor Thorne 
Lisa, on "Falling in love with Doctor Thorne, man and book'
. . .
Framley Parsonage 
. . .
The Small House at Allington 
. . .
The Last Chronicle of Barset 

We would love to have you join us!


Lisa said...

I haven't seen that lecture on Austen before, how interesting! I'm not sure I'd agree with him though that her "accuracy" was unconscious.

I have my copy of Framley Parsonage all ready to go :)

Angela Thirkell does have a lot of spoilers for the Barsetshire books. In several of her books, her characters work out how they're related to Trollope's characters, or talk about things that happened in the old days in Barsetshire :)

Unknown said...

I would love to join you, but now I have started Trollope's standalone novels I'm finding so many the I must read RIGHT NOW.

JoAnn said...

Doctor Thorne is most definitely our hero here, but now I am even more intrigued with Ms. Thirkell's series after that teaser! This book seemed to have more of an Austen-ish feel than the first two and I loved every single page. I never did write a proper blog post though... maybe in the next day or two before I get absorbed in Framley Parsonage.

Thank you for visiting!

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