To take on the task of narrating over hrs of book with probably as many characters must be daunting at least but he took it in his stride and brought the books alive with his characterisations. Narration is not acting, there's no positioning, no visual aids to assist with the action, it is voice alone.
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The voice of the author telling his story and the speech of the different characters, Timothy West did it all with the greatest of aplomb. He was perfect for these books. Listening to the Chronicles has made me a fan of Trollope and I shall be seeking out more of his books. If you like Jane Austen you will like Anthony Trollope, her literary honorary grandson if you will!
If you are looking for a gentle tale among England's green and pleasant pastures in the s this is for you, no windswept moors, no blackened cities, no continually failing crops or trouble at mill. I will be back to visit Barsetshire again in the future and after over hrs of listening you can't get a bigger recommendation than that! Timothy West conveys just the right feel for a book from the Barset Chronicles. His reading was sensitive when it needed to be, funny when it needed to be I absolutely loved it and will definitely keep this one to listen to again.
Trollope has really mastered the art of creating irritating characters in this last volume of 'The Barchester Chronicles'--which doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Some are familiar to readers of the earlier novels. There's Mrs. Proudie, for example, the bishop's wife, who seems to think that SHE is the bishop, yammering on about "the souls of the people" while she bullies her husband and everybody else.
The namby-pamby bishop is quite irritating on his own accord: he never silences or reprimands his wife until near the end, and then it takes the form of whining and blaming. The focal figure of the novel, the reverend Mr. I understand his forgetfulness and his adherence to principles, but refusing to hire a lawyer even taking on a free one when you've been charged with a crime, thus putting your family on the brink of total destitution and disgrace, is unforgiveable, not to mention just plain stupid. Then there's Lily Dale, abandoned in an earlier installment by her lover in favor of a wealthier woman.
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Devoted not only to him but to her role as martyr, she refuses the love of a good man, refuses to marry the now-widowed lover, and takes a vow reflected in her diary: "Lily Dale: Old Maid. Well, while all of these characters are maddening, somehow Trollope also manages to makes their trials and tribulations quite intriguing. And at least one of them gets his or her comeuppance. Trollope weaves in several subplots as well, inlcuding that of Grace Crawley, a young woman as principled as her father who refuses the proposal of the man she loves, reluctant to tie his family to her father's possible shame.
And John Eames, who has loved Lily Dale forever. There are plenty of other characters to admire, among them those trying to help the beleaguered Mr. Most memorable is the goodhearted lawyer Mr. As others have mentioned, the subplot surrounding John Eames's friend, the painter Conrad Darymple, doesn't quite fit. Perhaps it's true that Trollope stuck it in to come up with the number of pages required by his publisher. Nevertheless, The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire is an entertaining and engaging book, a fitting conclusion to Trollope's delightful six-volume chronicles.
Timothy West is one of the finest narrators around. I've greatly enjoyed his readings of Trollope and Hardy, among others. This book ties all the loose ends of the series together.
The performance is masterly and the story delightful. Trollope evokes a setting that becomes tangible to the reader and the characters are ones for which one feels deeply. I was sad to say good-bye to this wonderful series. First of all, I'll say that I absolutely loved this book! Timothy West is a wonderful narrator and I enjoyed his reading to the end.
And what I mean by "interwoven" is that if you've listened to the first five books in the series, you'll see that the families from the other novels are interwoven in this last one. However, as another reviewer has said, this book would also stand on its own. The words flowed so freely and with such energy that I didn't want to stop listening until it was over. No matter what I've done in the last three-four days, I've also listened to this book.
There are disappointments for some of the characters and for me and triumphs for others, all of which are brought about in an ingenious way. In a world where rank and money is everything, the poor and lowly can be discounted so easily. But Trollope doesn't allow only bad things to happen to good people, and thereon hangs the story of the Crawleys.
You'll recognize most of the characters as they enter the story in one way or another, and I felt that it was the coziest way to experience a summing up of the Chronicles. And, as with all of Trollope's stories, the lessons learned from an honest look at the lives of our fellow man are of value in our own. If you could sum up The Last Chronicle of Barset in three words, what would they be?
Good Day Sir! What other book might you compare The Last Chronicle of Barset to and why? Pride and Prejudice- unrequited love, social standings, gatherings, frocks, marriage and flirtation that is all so innocent but terribly enthralling. Best part- he does the voices superbly. Tone, pace and pronunciation- complements Anthony Trollopes writing style perfectly. Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting? Oh yes- pesky work gets in the way! Timothy West is the best narrator I've heard and brings a story to life in a very skillful way.
Sad that I've finished the chronicles. I cannot fully express how much pleasure I have experienced listening to the entire series "The Chronicles of Barset". Anthony Trollope's style is so well written I generally have a deep dislike for "romance" in my books but not with Trollope whose "Chronicles" have unrequited love as a central theme This only goes to show you the extent to which this writer is able to pull you in to his world.
This narrator reads these books has though these were his stories. I hope you will enjoy these books as much as I have. There is no better narrator for Anthony Trollope's books than Timothy West! Timothy West and Trollope simply work. This series of the Barchester novels could compete for the title of Best Ever Audiobooks. The Last Chronicle is the darkest of the series, but Timothy West again brings a warm humanity to the voice of the author and a penetrating individuality to each of the characters without ever falling into exaggeration or caricature, that makes you want to listen to the end and it's a long book.
This is a brilliant book read by a brilliant reader. I've now listened to all the Anthony Trollope books and there is no one better at reading them than Timothy West; get this one and no other version. Anthony Trollope's books are long but a sheer delight: he is able to capture a time long gone but which still resonates today.
My advice is to listen to them all as they fit together and you meet old friends as well as new characters. I first fell in love with Barsetshire and its inhabitants many years with the television production of The Barchester Chronicles, but found reading the books rather hard going. However with Timothy West's stunning performance my love has been totally rekindled and this final book of the series is in my opinion by far the best with its different strands of interest.
I am now looking forward to his reading of the Palliser novels. I was enraptured by this story mostly due to the brilliant reading. The various characters were brought to live by the subtlety of the actor's voice. The ending was really poignant. As others have said, Anthony Trollope read by Timothy West is audiobook heaven - would that he had recorded more! This is a darker, more troubled tale than most, and one cannot help but be frustrated with the principled obstinacy of the Revd Josiah Crawley. And then to admire his courage and integrity.
His showdown with Bishop Proudie and his wife, of course is a stunning piece of theatre. Another superb reading from Timothy West brings the chronicle to a close. Perhaps a little more sombre than the other books but still a joy. Timothy West is quite simply unsurpassed in his narration of Trollope. The consistency of his characterisation across each volume is astonishing and means that one becomes more and more familiar with, and close to, each character.
Whatever one thinks of Trollope I happily forgive the melodrama and parochial topicality! I have now listened to Tim West reading all the Barchester Chronicles and I cannot praise them and him highly enough. He makes every character come to life which means that the dialogue is just so vibrant. Trollope' s narrative gives such insight into the characters' private thoughts and feelings. The background to the stories is fascinating, and highly accessible and they are great stories! The whole experience is so much better than watching the stories televised.
All the Trollope books read by West I have heard are wonderful and this one is no exception. I will not give a synopsis of the plot, but it is complex. I wonder what will happen now that modern communications mean that the sort of misunderstanding which drives the major plot line here can no longer happen? Today a mobile phone call would avoid the whole issue. Along with Barchester Towers this is my favourite of the series.
Wonderful book, and Timothy West is the perfect narrator for Trollope. By: Anthony Trollope. Narrated by: Timothy West. Length: 30 hrs and 27 mins. People who bought this also bought Publisher's Summary Exclusively from Audible In the last and most complex of the Barsetshire audiobooks, many of Trollope's best-loved characters appear, but the mood of the recording is darker and more uneasy than in earlier volumes.
Narrator Biography Timothy West is prolific in film, television, theatre, and audiobooks. Public Domain P Audible, Inc. The Duke's Children. What members say Average Customer Ratings Overall. Sort by:. Most Helpful Most Recent. Mr One of the best A great reading of a great story. Janet Heidelberg, Australia Review It was superbly read and superbly written. Michele Kellett The Clever Mr. Eventually, I hope, I'll persuade you all over again that, as a sensitive observer of human psychology, and of the world, Anthony Trollope was as good as they come.
First, let's look at the real outside world that surrounds this novel. Most critics place the novel in the year , which is reasonable, given what we know. These were interesting times in every way. A year and a half earlier, in late , Darwin had published his Origin of Species. Explosive then; explosive now: a major scientific and cultural shock, calling into question the very foundations of religious belief. Moreover, this book's characters stand sixty years into the beginning of one of the most radical economic changes in human history.
If you were to plot the graph, the sum of human wealth, flat for millennia, suddenly makes an upward, almost vertical turn at the start of the 19 th century. A division opens between the rich nations and the poor nations, and Trollope's England is one of the rich nations, the richest then, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, and its astonishing rise in efficiencies of production.
The first transatlantic cable has just been laid, allowing fast—well, relatively fast—communication between America and Great Britain. An American invention, the mechanical reaper, has made its way to England in the s, and will upend the system we still see here in The Small House , of wealthy landowners who live on the rents paid by their tenant farmers.
The Last Chronicle of Barset (Chronicles of Barsetshire, book 6) by Anthony Trollope
The mechanical reaper halves the cost of wheat, a boon for bread-eaters in the city, but devastating for agricultural workers and their landlords, the landed gentry. This is also the moment when we begin to pump massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, because it's when we first use fossil fuels—coal, and then petroleum—on an industrial scale.
The London of is a city of great contrasts, dazzling and grinding. In , Parliament has been driven into recess by what's known as The Big Stink: the Thames is so clogged with raw sewage that, even with special draperies dipped in lime, the smell assaults and overcomes the distinguished members. When the Big Stink abates enough so that Parliament can reconvene, it commissions for London the most up-to-date sewage treatment in the world, a system more or less in place by The new sewer system ends threats of further Big Stinks, but its most dramatic effect is upon public health. It's a boom time.
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Everyone's standard of living is rising except for poor Mrs. Of course the rich are doing better than the poor, but the term "middle class" has just come into use in the decade prior to our novel, and that middle class is catered to by a bazaar of luxuries that come from all over the Empire. The Empire, a quarter of the globe, and in only approaching its peak.
At the London docks, goods arrive by the ton, but the Empire also offers employment for thousands of otherwise unemployable younger sons; gives poor boys opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have; it's an escape, voluntary or involuntary, for those who need an escape. Meanwhile, the Empire stuffs the treasuries of firms and government alike.
The Dales, mother and daughters, are only poor in a relative way. They have at least one servant, and a pleasant place to live, that Small House though they live there thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Dale's brother-in-law, the Squire and some, though not much, disposable income. The three of them live on three hundred a year—no wonder Adolphus Crosbie's eight hundred per annum looks so princely. Dale doing the kinds of wardrobe maintenance that only poor but genteel women must do.
Really poor women don't bother. For the poor suffer mightily in the England of this time, particularly in London. Despite the growth of private wealth, the farfetched notion of government responsibility to alleviate poverty is only a gleam in the eye of certain Continental radicals. The Lancet says that more than 6, brothels exist in London, staffed largely by poor girls with no alternative. Amelia Roper escapes this fate by the skin of her teeth. Medicine, and its sister, hygiene, are primitive. Crofts, Bell's sweetheart, must have read an editorial in The Times which says that having medical students actually take exams is a waste of time, since diagnoses are a matter of good guesswork, and no one has ever devised an exam to test intuition.
In our particular year of , Florence Nightingale establishes in London the first school for nursing—ever. But it's a good sewer system, not medicine, that makes the dramatic difference in public health. A literary footnote: In , a young architect's assistant by the name of Thomas Hardy is just leaving the provincial town of Dorchester to try his luck as an architect in London. In short, The Small House at Allington is set in a historically charged moment.
Profound changes are already underway; more profound changes will follow. All this seems largely absent from the novel, an absence worth pondering. The great engine that drives the Trollopian novel is money. Money, the getting of it; money, the losing of it; money that buys not just the creature comforts, but that buys status and security. So in this book, the plot is set in motion when Adolphus Crosbie falls in love with penniless Lily Dale. He hears from his good friend, Lily's cousin Bernard who indeed has introduced Adolphus into the Dale household that Lily's uncle Bernard's also will surely settle something on her, and so proposes.
Lily, having fallen wildly in love, says yes. All this occurs within a month. Life in the small house has seen some struggle, so at one level Lily's aware that money makes the world go round. He even looks as if he'll make something of himself, being the up and coming civil servant and young man of fashion that he is in London.
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But Lily's uncle refuses to settle money on her. Crosbie has a dark night of the soul—in fact, several dark nights of the soul--as he considers what he must now give up to keep his betrothal pledge. He leaves Allington for Courcy Castle, where he promptly gets himself engaged simultaneously to Lady Alexandrina de Courcy, whose sell-by date has come and gone. Lady Alexandrina doesn't have any money either, but she has status as the daughter of an earl, and Crosbie imagines that this status will propel his career.
When Lily learns of his duplicity, she doesn't think good riddance to thoroughly bad rubbish, but forbids anyone to say a harsh word about him. She dedicates herself to a perfervid and impossible love whose martyrdom has perplexed many a reader. On the day of Crosbie's wedding to Lady Alexandrina, Lily recites aloud to her horrified mother and sister what he must be doing hour by hour—there at the church, the altar, the wedding feast, the wedding journey: all a kind of mortification that gives the reader shivers. Crosbie is nothing less than Lily's demon lover, and more about that in a moment.
This is such a rich novel that I must resist exploring the meaning of Lily Dale's name, or that Lily's story is a retelling of the Daphne myth, not tonight! The question arises—actually George Newlin raised it with me—whether the relationship between Lily and Crosbie is in fact consummated, and if it is, whether this accounts for Lily's morbid attachment to Crosbie long after she should have turned her back. The novel is deliciously, playfully ambiguous about such a consummation, for Anthony Trollope knew his Victorian reader, and knew just how far he might go.
Here's a sample of some of that playfulness, using croquet as a metaphor. We know that Mr. Crosbie isn't quite as clumsy a croquet player as he first pretends, but the metaphor takes on more and more meanings —'"Apollo can't get through the hoops," Lily said afterwards to her sister; "but then how gracefully he fails to do it! But it so turned out that before Mr. Crosbie took his final departure from Allington, he could get through the hoops; and Lily, though she was still queen of the croquet ground, had to acknowledge a male sovereign in that dominion.
I am not sure that Crosbie liked it all as much as he should have done. The bold assurance of her love when they two were alone together he did like. Now Lily is also adored from afar by a local boy who himself has gone to London to make good, a clerk called Johnny Eames. Johnny is in an odd spot too because in his London boarding house, he has begun, or been bullied into, a flirtation with his landlady's daughter, Amelia Roper. Trollope doesn't succumb to the cartoonish names of his contemporary, Charles Dickens, but he has his fun.
Johnny has written a compromising note which the calculating Amelia often reminds him of, for she considers herself engaged to him, while he can only think he'd rather go to the colonies than marry Amelia—another small sign that a world exists outside. In short, the usual Trollopian structure obtains in this novel: the parallel love affairs, the comparisons we are left to make among them; the question of how it will all resolve itself; the ever-vexing problem of money.
Those who have money do not wish to part from it; those who do not have it need it--and find it mighty elusive. As you read The Small House , you must be struck by the fact that while Trollope lavishes detailed descriptions upon the Great House at Allington, even down to the windowpanes and equally as much description upon the new and thoroughly awful house Crosbie and his bride Lady Alexandrina occupy after their wedding the small house is left oddly vague. We know there's a fertile garden, and we know there's a fine lawn, where, when the story has barely begun, the young couples play croquet, and where, a bit later, a country dance is staged.
We know that the small house has windows, where the occupants can gaze out and others can look in. Why is Trollope quiet here? Can it be that the small house is as much a state of mind as a real place? If this is so, what state of mind does it represent? When Squire Dale, uncle to Lily and Bell, and uncle also to Bernard, takes it badly that Bell will not have Bernard, preferring instead a country doctor, the three inhabitants of the small house understand that Squire Dale wants the privileges and authority of a father without the responsibilities. They agree to give up the small house, a leave-taking that wrenches each of them, the Squire included.
What are they leaving? It isn't just the home they have kept together for nearly fifteen years, comfortable, friendly, and not incidentally, rent-free. I sense that the Small House could be a state of mind, the golden home of childhood before adult responsibilities press down, before the outside world makes its demands.
With its cozy warmth, its gardens, the Small House is an Eden, though more for the daughters than the mother. It might even stand for that sentimental Anglo-Saxon preference for the country over the city, quiet comforts over the hubbub, and even the risks, of the great outside. It might stand, in other words, for the place we must leave as we mature, as we make the transition from childhood to adulthood, a persistent theme in this novel, particularly with Johnny Eames's eventual shedding of his hobbledehoyhood, his boy in a man's body becoming at last a man altogether.
Bell accepts Dr. Crofts as her husband, and so leaves the small house at the appropriate time. But Lily and her mother do not leave the small house after all. For Lily it seems a strange choice. If the Small House is the state of mind I've suggested, then it seems Lily is refusing to step out of girlhood and out of her puzzling, quite disproportionate infatuation—I said martyrdom a moment ago—with a man who has betrayed her, a man unworthy of such devotion. She refuses the man who loves her truly; in a later novel, The Last Chronicle of Barset , she will even turn down the man she has martyred herself for, Adolphus, Apollo, the rascal who betrayed her, by then widowed and all too aware of his error.
It seems she prefers to linger instead in the small house of girlhood, refusing, perhaps afraid, to engage with the greater world outside, which is to say, adulthood. Maybe this is why the outside world and its dramatic events are so shadowy in this novel. Yes, of course, artistic economy pushes all this into the background, but I also think it works symbolically. Poor Lily.
She's certainly had bad luck with men and hasn't much reason to trust them. We learn she's about four when her father dies, plunging the family not only into deep grief, but simultaneously into want. Lily is taken to live in a home provided by her uncle who can barely be civil to his sister-in-law, Lily's mother; though in his gruff way, he's fond of his nieces, and gives them gifts from time to time. Her cousin Bernard, who should surely have known his friend better, permits the fatal engagement to take place without a word of warning.
Johnny is more or less true to her, but he's a man, and has more than a few serious flirtations with other women, which Lily will hear about, and in the subsequent novel, use as an excuse to keep from marrying him. But Lily's greatest betrayer is Adolphus Crosbie, her demon-lover, an attachment that pitches her toward destruction. Between the early grief over her father's death, Crosbie's cruel betrayal, and then grief for her own shattered hopes, we can't wonder if Lily immures herself in the small house, whatever it stands for. Still, Lily is no moping drama queen. Her banter is ever bright and funny; she's very good company and much welcomed for that wherever she goes.
She tries to keep her sorrows to herself, but sorrows they are, deep and mysterious. We, the readers, know about them; her mother also knows; she confides in a close friend. Meanwhile, all the world presses her to take John Eames as her husband. Yet Lily Dale persists in attaching herself, at least symbolically, to a man who has done grave damage to her; continues to claim she loves him.
After their brief month's acquaintance and courtship, which ends in their engagement, she sends him ardent love letters; he barely bothers to reply. What kind of love is this?
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Is he just not that into her, as a later generation will say? But as we know, he does love her. He simply has other priorities. From a common-sense perspective, Lily's behavior is inexplicable, nor can we account for the novel's popularity. So let's consider a psychological perspective instead. Freudians have declared unambiguously that Lily is afraid of sexual love.
Frankly, this is implausible. Her behavior with Crosbie when they're engaged is more than flirtatious; within the bounds of propriety, it's quite sexual. You've heard some evidence that it goes beyond the bounds of propriety. Had the marriage taken place, we can believe that she'd have been an ardent and happy wife. Meanwhile, she keeps turning down Johnny Eames's proposals. Maybe she refuses him at first because in some ways he is what the Jungians call her shadow : he represents what she likes least in herself, a child--or at least an adolescent--in a grownup's body.
But then Johnny comes to her again, as a man in a man's body, and still she refuses him. The reasons she gives are almost morbid—she feels herself as married to Adolphus Crosbie as if she had actually wed him, even though he has married another and wickedly humiliated her to do so. In an odd parallel, Johnny Eames uses almost the same phrase to describe his relationship with Lily—he feels himself as good as married to her, even though she refuses him and there's no sign at all that any relationship was ever consummated between them. When, in The Last Chronicle , the possibility of marriage to Adolphus is raised, Lily confesses to a friend: "I love him, but I do not trust his love.
Is Lily's behavior a tardy example of Continental Romanticism? In The Sorrows of Young Werther , published nearly a century earlier, its hero commits suicide from unrequited love, and some suicides all over Europe are said to have been committed in sympathy. Lily seems to be committing a kind of suicide. Or, is Lily one of those nice girls who just finds bad boys irresistible? This to the consternation, the frustration, of nice boys everywhere? Or, can it be that Adolphus Crosbie stands as an emissary from the outside world—really, the first from that outside world that Lily has ever met, living, as she has, only among the relatives and friends of Allington?
Can it be that Crosbie's reprehensible behavior has convinced her to have nothing to do with that outside world ever again? Hence her permanent retreat to the Small House? Or, is Crosbie Lily's demon lover? In psychological terms, this phrase stands for an erotic struggle that can and often does destroy a woman—the near fatal union between a maid and a demon, which echoes through classical and European folklore. Bluebeard is the canonical example; some versions of Don Juan; several lives of the saints.
The demon lover seduces and then destroys. But if a woman survives and triumphs in that struggle, she will make herself whole, seize genuine autonomy. Very early in the novel, we have a possible foreshadowing of Lily's future. Dale, a widow of fifteen years' standing, Trollope tells us, has decided "she must bury herself that her daughters might live well above ground. Women at forty do not become ancient misanthropes, or stern Rhadamanthine moralists, indifferent to the world's pleasures—no, not even though they be widows. Dale was wrong….
She had resolved, as she herself had said often, to put away childish things, and now she pined for those things which she so put away from her. In The Last Chronicle of Barset, Lily writes the words Old Maid in her journal, a future she is consciously willing, a vow she deliberately makes.
Lily admits to herself, to her friend, at last to John Eames, that something has gone wrong in her life. She is, she confesses, a shattered tree. The demon lover has destroyed her. Or has he? The actual outside world—in the form of Victorian readers—loved Lily Dale. Trollope tells us she was one of his most popular heroines: readers wrote to beg that a marriage take place; in the real world, two ships were named for her. How can this be, when she behaves so inexplicably? What appeal did such a pathetic creature have for her contemporaries? In her first infatuation with Crosbie, Lily fits the Victorian image of "the angel in the house," an idea that comes from a poem of that title, a poem of revolting sentimentality, and wildly popular with the middle class at just this time, the late s, early s and even later.
The ideal woman, the angel in the house, is held to be meek, passive, obedient and submissive in all things to her husband; her concern is only his well-being and the well-being of their children; and on and on. This cult of angel in the house would have been impossible without that rise in private wealth mentioned earlier: angels being, of course, a class that requires subsidies. Early in their courtship, Crosbie refers to Lily explicitly as an angel. And Lily concurs, will be such an angel for him, herself effaced: she looks forward joyfully.
The angel in the house, Virginia Woolf would later say, is a figure that women writers must murder. Kennedy—not because she loves him, but because her brother needs money--Mr. Robert Kennedy, whose ambitions for women are no more generous or imaginative than "the angel in the house. Does this dispose of Lily Dale? Has the demon lover succeeded in destroying her? Not quite. Forgive me for looking ahead to the sequel once more.
She encounters the man she once hoped to marry, and discovers that he is not a god, Apollo, but only a man after all. She is fond of John Eames, but has always understood that he too is a mortal, no god. In a very telling late passage in The Last Chronicle, we enter her mind: she loves John Eames dearly, but—but. The shipwreck to which she had once come, and the fierce doubts that had thence arisen, had forced her to think too much of these things. But now she understands that she cannot destroy herself for any mere mortal.
A wiser, more mature Lily understands that, as a respectable woman of modest means, Victorian society offers her only two choices: she can marry, and submit to the utter self-sacrifice demanded of angels of the house. Or she can decline to marry, and thus decline to submit and serve. In this reading, the Small House is no longer a perverse step backward into girlhood, but an evasive maneuver sideways—the only way to seize and secure her human autonomy. It will cost her dearly--companionship, children, a loving home. For the older, wiser Lily Dale, it is worth the cost.
This is real world that we have missed in these novels—it is there and ineluctable after all. Trollope does not say all this explicitly. For all I know, he didn't know it himself consciously. But he knew it as an artist, as one of subtlest observers of the human psyche who ever put pen to paper in the English language. It's left to us, the readers, to choose how to interpret Lily's behavior. One astute reader, Virginia Woolf, admired the book and its heroine immensely. Without my last reading—that Lily refuses to give up her autonomy to a husband, and chooses instead a room of her own—Woolf's admiration would perplex me.
Thus I leave you with questions I have only suggested answers to:. Is she Romantic victim? Or merely unhinged? Does Lily's choice to remain in the Small House symbolize her fear of moving from girlhood into adulthood, into the larger world? If so, can we blame her, given her experience with the larger world? Or is the choice she makes to remain single--an old maid--the only rational one left to her, if she wants her autonomy, wants to remain whole, wants to avoid sacrificing herself to the common expectations of Victorian marriage? If this is so, then isn't Lily Dale a harbinger of the coming revolution in the status of women, one part of the outside world that, for centuries to come, will force itself upon both private and public domains all over the planet?
I welcome your thoughts, and thank you. The Last Chronicle of Barset. A talk presented to the Trollopians. May 11, The Last Chronicle of Barset is the final act of a cycle of richly imagined novels set in the mythical county of Barsetshire. Trollope describes him: "an unhappy, moody, disappointed man, upon whom the troubles of the world always seemed to come with a double weight. Tonight, I'll talk about the structure, the themes, and the characters in this book, but I'll also argue that the novel can claim further significance, that its implications go far beyond the fate of a particular clergyman.
I thought to begin with a synopsis of all six Barsetshire novels, to put this grand summit of a book into context, to remind you that when we encounter many of these characters in The Last Chronicle, they're old acquaintances with full stories of their own. But that synopsis began to sound in my own ears like the late Anna Russell recounting the story of the Ring of the Nibelung —only not so funny. The Ring isn't a farfetched comparison. Great panoramic works of art were very much the fashion just then: Wagner wrote his Ring Cycle from to , virtually the same time Trollope was writing first, his Barsetshire cycle, and then his overlapping Palliser cycle: composer and author were contemporaries.
Such epics haven't yet gone out of fashion. What else is The Sopranos , ER , Six Feet Under , or any other series that revolves around a continuing set of characters that fascinate us? As you well know, Trollope's two great epics address somewhat different levels of English society.
The Palliser novels, of course, are set for the most part in London, and take up some of the political issues that bedeviled Victorian England. Their characters are at the top of the social pyramid, dukes and duchesses, earls and countesses, plus those plucky few like Phineas Finn and the marvelous Madame Max who find their way into such society. The Barsetshire books, however, are country novels, their settings the sweet and slow—the idealized—provincial towns outside London, their aristocracy country folk. From time to time, the spheres overlap: Barsetshire characters appear in Palliser books, and vice versa.
Some eighteen months ago, I spoke to you about the fifth book in the Barsetshire series, The Small House at Allington.
The Last Chronicle of Barset
To make sense of its main character, Lily Dale, I often had to refer to The Last Chronicle , where her story concludes. I felt a bit uneasy, as if I were poaching on the talk of whoever would speak about The Last Chronicle. George Newlin fixed that problem nicely by suggesting that I do it, and here I am. Thus I won't say much about Lily Dale and her adventures tonight, but if you wish to read, or even re-read, what I said eighteen months ago, you can find that talk on my website.
To the novel: We first meet the clergyman Josiah Crawley by name in Framley Parsonage , the fourth novel in the series. That book offers almost geometrically parallel stories of Crawley, who has been given too little too often, and Mark Robarts, also a clergyman, who has been given too much too soon. Trollope shows how either extreme can corrupt, and the portrait of Crawley as a depressive is nearly too painful to read—a man with such financial burdens, such existential disappointments and setbacks, that sometimes he cannot get out of bed for days on end. His pride is toxic, both to him and his family.
Crawley and Robarts each have loving, supportive, blameless wives. Both wives suffer grievously nevertheless. From the moment we meet him, then, Crawley is described to us as mad, strange, dark, unstable, fanatic.
At the same time, we know that he's a conscientious clergyman, held in high regard by that "lawless, drunken, terribly rough lot of humanity, " his parishioners in Hogglestock, not only because he lives in difficulties and works hard, but also because "he does his duty in spite of the world's ill-usage. The major difference between them is that while Job is the innocent victim of a sporting God, Crawley has been much the agent of his own downfall. Crawley is a well-educated an expensively educated, he tells his wife more than once gentleman.
At Oxford he's been the intimate friend of Francis Arabin, who will become the dean of Barchester. Earlier, when Arabin suffers a spiritual crisis, tempted to go over from the Church of England to the Church of Rome like his famous colleague John Henry Newman it's Crawley, unnamed, in Barchester Towers , the second novel in the series, who sees him through it. Arabin, we learn in that novel, will visit Crawley in Cornwall annually after that, and eventually secures for Crawley a somewhat better paid post at Hogglestock, which is where we finally meet him.
In The Last Chronicle , hints soon emerge about Crawley's excessive nature. Consider the Greek books that Trollope names, read and loved in the Crawley household: Euripides, whose most famous plays are about extremes of human behavior such as Medea and The Bacchae ; the poems of Anacreon, famous for praising wine, women and song. When Crawley bests and banishes the ineffectual Mr. Thumble, messenger of Mrs. Bishop Proudie, he summons his daughter to come and read aloud in triumph with him Seven Against Thebes.
These are not the readings of a moderate man. I say that Crawley is the agent of his own destruction, and here's what I mean. Crawley's original sin is that he has married too soon. Pressed by the need to support his wife and children, he's forced to take a precarious living in the wilds of Cornwall. He's had "many children," most who have ended in the grave.
Please stop for a moment and consider this. Unlike his friends and colleagues, who defer marriage, contain themselves until the proper situation is obtained, the right woman met, Crawley has impetuously, passionately married a genteel but poor woman; and to add insult to injury, has had too many children for his slender means. One of his fellow clergymen, commenting on Crawley's poverty, says he shouldn't have married on that small income, unaware, as Trollope points out, that Crawley originally married on an even smaller income.
You might argue that the Reverend Quiverful is also blessed with too many children, and no one seems to hold that against him, but Quiverful is a tertiary and comic figure, as his name implies, whereas we are meant to take Crawley altogether seriously. So I contend that Crawley's original sin is erotic, an ardor that has warmed yet blighted his life. He has violated not only the canons of the English gentleman he was bred up to be; he has also violated the decorum of the classics he reveres: restraint, rationality, pondered thought, self-control, and continence.
No sign of Sloth unless you count those occasional days when, in the grip of the deepest depression, he cannot get out of bed , no sign of Greed or Gluttony. But still! Four out of seven! Bear this in mind, for I'll come back to it. Let me say again what an enormous artistic chance Trollope took by putting at the center of his novel such a desperate, depressive, abusive man as Crawley. How can we feel sympathy for this prickly man, who has been forced to crawl through life?
He knows very well—he prides himself on it—that his learning is better, deeper than that of other men. He knows his faith before his God is truer, and much more profoundly tried. He works harder than other men in his class do; in return, he sees nothing but grinding misery, while they seem to work not at all, and live in luxury.