The Warden (Trollope)

Trollope, Anthony, The Warden.

If someone today were to write a novel where reformists clashed with religious conservatives, you would certainly expect it to be a highly contentious, even biased work. Trollope demonstrates his skill as a novelist by showing both sides as composed of fairly admirable people. His resolution of the problem is even more impressive.

Mr Harding, a warden of a religious hospitable, is a kind and virtuous man. He is living off of an annuity that far exceeds his daily needs, though he and everyone else is unaware of this. In comes a do-gooder, Dr John Bold. Bold discovers the disparity and begins to rally the populace against the avaricious church. There is a problem: Bold is engaged to Mr Harding’s daughter.

Throughout the novel Trollope illustrates the genius of conservatism: sometimes its best not to make all changes at once because you can’t account for how many decent people you will destroy. Even worse, Bold engages the media to run a hatchet job, which completely crushes Harding’s spirit (my hatred of the press is complete at this point). Of course, Harding is a coward on this point. Do not worry about what the media says. One only needs to respond with the middle finger.

Trollope also has a dashing flair for the unique flavors of 19th century British life.

“No room, Bold thought, could have been more becoming for a dignitary of the church; each wall was loaded with theology; over each separate bookcase was printed in small gold letters the names of those great divines whose works ranged beneath….Chrysostom, St Augustine, Thomas a Becket, Cardinal Wolsey, Archbishop Laud, and Dr Phillpotts” (160).

In the last chapter Trollope notes that the rector served the Eucharist once every three months. There is this bizarre view in some Reformed and Evangelical circles that frequent eating with Jesus is too Catholicky or High Church. The opposite is the case.


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