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Barchester Towers
by Anthony Trollope
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes


(1857)



Anthony Trollope, born in London on April 24, 1815, was one of the most successful of Victorian novelists, especially with the books known as the 'Chronicles of Barsetshire', based in the imaginary English county. During his service as a Post Office official Trollope is credited with having initiated the introduction of street post-boxes.

Abridged: JH
For more works by Anthony Trollope, see The Index



Barchester Towers


I. - The New Bishop

In the latter days of July in the year 1805, a most important question was hourly asked in the cathedral city of Barchester: Who was to be the new bishop?

The death of old Dr. Grantly, who had for many years filled that chair with meek authority, took place exactly as the ministry of Lord - - was going to give place to that of Lord - - . The illness of the good old man was long and lingering, and it became at last a matter of intense interest to those concerned whether the new appointment should be made by a Conservative or Liberal government.

It was pretty well understood that the outgoing premier had made his selection, and that, if the question rested with him, the mitre would descend on the head of Archdeacon Grantly, the old bishop's son, who had long managed the affairs of the diocese.

A trying time was this for the archdeacon as he sat by his father's dying bed. The ministry were to be out within five days: his father was to be dead within - no, he rejected that view of the subject.

Presently Mr. Harding entered noiselessly.

"God bless you, my dears" - said the bishop with feeble voice - "God bless you both." And so he died.

"It's a great relief, archdeacon," said Mr. Harding, "a great relief. Dear, good, excellent old man. Oh, that our last moments may be as innocent and as peaceful as his!"

The archdeacon's mind, however, had already travelled from the death chamber to the study of the prime minister. It was already evening, and nearly dark. It was most important that the prime minister should know that night that the diocese was vacant. Everything might depend on it. And so, in answer to Mr. Harding's further consolation, the archdeacon suggested that a telegraph message should be immediately sent to London.

Mr. Harding got as far as the library door with the slip of paper containing the message to the prime minister, when he turned back.

"I forgot to tell you," he said. "The ministry are out. Mr. Chadwick got the news by telegraph, and left word at the palace door."

Thus terminated our unfortunate friend's chance of possessing the glories of a bishopric.

The names of many divines were given in the papers as that of the bishop elect. And then the Jupiter declared that Dr. Proudie was to be the man.

Dr. Proudie was the man. Just a month after the demise of the late bishop, Dr. Proudie kissed the queen's hand as his successor elect, and was consecrated bishop of Barchester.

Dr. Proudie was one among those who early in life adapted himself to the views held by the Whigs on most theological and religious subjects. Toleration became the basis on which he fought his battles, and at this time he was found to be useful by the government. In person he was a good-looking man, and it was no fault of his own if he had not a commanding eye, for he studied hard for it.

Dr. Proudie may well be said to have been a fortunate man, for he had not been born to wealth, and he was now bishop of Barchester with £5000 a year; but nevertheless he had his cares. He had a large family, of whom the three eldest were daughters, now all grown up and all fitted for fashionable life; and he had a wife.

Now, Mrs. Proudie was not satisfied with home dominion, but stretched her power over all her husband's movements, and would not even abstain from things spiritual. In fact, the bishop was henpecked. In her own way the bishop's wife was a religious woman, and the form in which this tendency showed itself in her was by a strict observance of Sabbatarian rule. Dissipation and low dresses during the week were, under her control, atoned for by three services, an evening sermon read by herself, and a perfect abstinence from any cheering employment on the Sunday. In these matters Mrs. Proudie allowed herself to be guided by the Rev. Mr. Slope, the bishop's chaplain; and as Dr. Proudie was guided by his wife, it necessarily followed that Mr. Slope had obtained a good deal of control over Dr. Proudie in matters concerning religion. Mr. Slope's only preferment hitherto had been that of reader and preacher in a London district church; and on the consecration of his friend the new bishop he readily gave this up to become domestic chaplain to his lordship.

II. - The Bishop's Chaplain

When Mr. Slope sat himself down in the railway carriage, confronting the bishop and Mrs. Proudie, as they started on their first journey to Barchester, he began to form in his own mind a plan of his future life. He knew well his patron's strong points, but he knew the weak ones as well; and he rightly guessed that public life would better suit the great man's taste than the small details of diocesan duty.

He, therefore - he, Mr. Slope - would in effect be bishop of Barchester. Such was his resolve; and, to give Mr. Slope his due, he had both courage and spirit to bear him out in his resolution. He knew that he should have a hard battle to fight, for Mr. Proudie would also choose to be bishop of Barchester. At first, doubtless, he must flatter and cajole, and perhaps yield in some things; but he did not doubt of ultimate triumph. If all other means failed, he could join the bishop against his wife, inspire courage into the unhappy man, and emancipate the husband.

Such were Mr. Slope's thoughts as he sat looking at the sleeping pair in the railway carriage. He intended to lead, and to have followers; he intended to hold the purse-strings of the diocese, and draw round him a herd of his poor and hungry brethren. He had, however, a pawing, greasy way with him, and he was not a man to make himself at once popular in the circle of Barchester.

The second day after his arrival came Mr. Slope's first introduction to the clergy of Barchester, when Archdeacon Grantly and Mr. Harding called together at the palace to pay their respects to the bishop.

Our friends found Dr. Proudie sitting in the old bishop's chair, very nice in his new apron; they found, too, Mr. Slope standing on the hearth-rug, persuasive and eager; but on the sofa they found Mrs. Proudie, an innovation for which no precedent could be found in all the annals of Barchester. There she was, however, and they could only make the best of her.

The introductions were gone through in much form. The archdeacon shook hands with the bishop, and named Mr. Harding. His lordship then presented them to his lady wife. After this Mr. Slope presented himself. The bishop did mention his name, and so did Mrs. Proudie, too, in a louder tone; but Mr. Slope took upon himself the chief burden of his own introduction. He thrust out his hand, and, grasping that of the archdeacon, bedewed it unmercifully. Dr. Grantly in return bowed, looked stiff, contracted his eyebrows, and wiped his hand with his pocket handkerchief. Nothing abashed, Mr. Slope then noticed the precentor, and descended to the grade of the lower clergy.

There were four persons there, each of whom considered himself - or herself, as Mrs. Proudie was one of them - the most important personage in the diocese. The bishop himself actually wore the visible apron. The archdeacon knew his subject, and really understood the business of bishoping, which the others did not. Mrs. Proudie had her habit of command. Mr. Slope had only his own courage and tact to depend on.

"I fear there is a great deal of Sabbath travelling here," said Mr. Slope. "On looking at the 'Bradshaw,' I see that there are three trains in and three out every Sabbath. Could nothing be done to induce the company to withdraw them?"

"Not being a director, I really can't say. But if you can withdraw the passengers, the company, I dare say, will withdraw the trains," said the archdeacon. "It's merely a question of dividends."

"But surely, Dr. Grantly," said the lady, "surely we should look at it differently. Don't you think so, Mr. Harding?"

Mr. Harding thought that all porters and stokers, guards and pointsmen ought to have an opportunity of going to church, and he hoped that they all had.

"But surely, surely!" continued Mrs. Proudie, "surely that is not enough."

Come what might, Dr. Grantly was not to be forced into a dissertation on a point of doctrine with Mrs. Proudie, nor yet with Mr. Slope; so he turned his back upon the sofa, and hoped that Dr. Proudie had found the palace repairs had been such as to meet his wishes.

At once Mr. Slope sidled over to the bishop's chair, and began a catalogue of grievances concerning the stables and the out-houses. Mrs. Proudie, while she lent her assistance in reciting the palatial short-comings in the matter of gas, hot-water pipes, and the locks on the doors of servants' bedrooms, did not give up her hold of Mr. Harding. Over and over again she had thrown out her "Surely, surely!" at Mr. Harding's devoted head, and ill had that gentleman been able to parry the attack.

He had never before found himself subjected to such a nuisance, or been so hard pressed in his life. Mrs. Proudie interrogated him, and then lectured. "Neither thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant," said she, impressively, and more than once, as though Mr. Harding had forgotten the words. She shook her fingers at him as she quoted the law, as though menacing him with punishment.

Mr. Harding felt that he ought to rebuke the lady for presuming so to talk to a gentleman and a clergyman many years her senior; but he recoiled from the idea of scolding the bishop's wife, in the bishop's presence, on his first visit to the palace; moreover, to tell the truth, he was somewhat afraid of her.

The archdeacon was now ready to depart, and he and the precentor, after bowing low to the lady and shaking hands with my lord, made their escape from Mr. Slope as best they could. It was not till they were well out of the palace and on the gravel walk of the close that the archdeacon allowed the wrath inspired by Mr. Slope to find expression.

"He is the most thoroughly bestial creature that ever I set my eyes upon," said the archdeacon. "But what are we to do with him? Impudent scoundrel! To have to cross-examine me about out-houses, and Sunday travelling, too. I never in my life met his equal for sheer impudence. Why, he must have thought we were two candidates for ordination!"

"I declare I thought Mrs. Proudie was the worst of the two." said Mr. Harding.

III. - Mrs. Proudie Gets a Fall

An act of Parliament had decided that in future the warden of Hiram's Hospital should receive £450 a year, and no one thought for a moment that the new bishop would appoint any other than Mr. Harding.

Mr. Slope, however, had other plans. He saw from the first that he could not conciliate Dr. Grantly, and decided on open battle against the archdeacon and all his adherents. Only those came to call on Mr. Slope who, like Mr. Quiverful, the rector of Puddingdale, had large families and small incomes, and could not afford to neglect the loaves and fishes of the diocese, even if a Mr. Slope had charge of the baskets.

So Mr. Harding received a note begging him to call on Mr. Slope at the palace concerning the wardenship.

The result of this interview was so offensive to Mr. Harding that he said:

"You may tell the bishop, Mr. Slope, that as I altogether disagree with his views about the hospital, I shall decline the situation if I find that any such conditions are attached to it as those you have suggested." And so saying, he took his hat and went his way.

Mr. Slope was contented. He considered himself at liberty to accept Mr. Harding's last speech as an absolute refusal of the appointment. At least, he so represented it to the bishop and to Mrs. Proudie.

"I really am sorry for it," said the bishop.

"I don't know that there is much cause for sorrow," said the lady. "Mr. Quiverful is a much more deserving man."

"I suppose I had better see Quiverful," said the chaplain.

"I suppose you had," said the bishop.

But no sooner had Mr. Slope promised Quiverful the wardenship, Mrs. Proudie writing at the same time to her protégée, Mrs. Quiverful, than he repented of the step he had taken.

Eleanor Bold, Mr. Harding's daughter, was a widow in prosperous circumstances, and when Mr. Slope had made her acquaintance, and learnt of her income, he decided that he would woo her. Mr. Harding at the hospital, and placed there by his means, would be more inclined to receive him as a son-in-law. Mr. Slope wanted a wife, and he wanted money, but he wanted power more than either. He had fully realised that sooner or later he must come to blows with Mrs. Proudie. He had no desire to remain in Barchester as her chaplain; he had higher views of his own destiny. Either he or Mrs. Proudie must go to the wall, and now had come the time when he would try which it should be.

To that end, he rode over to Puddingdale and persuaded Mr. Quiverful to give up all hope of the wardenship. Mrs. Quiverful, however, with fourteen children, refused to yield without a struggle, and went off there and then to Mrs. Proudie at the palace.

She told her tale, and Mrs. Proudie walked quickly into her husband's room, and found him seated at his office table, with Mr. Slope opposite to him.

"What is this, bishop, about Mr. Quiverful?" said she, coming to the end of the table and standing there.

"I have been out to Puddingdale this morning, ma'am," replied Mr. Slope, "and have seen Mr. Quiverful; and he has abandoned all claim to the hospital. Under these circumstances I have strongly advised his lordship to nominate Mr. Harding."

"Who desired you to go to Mr. Quiverful?" said Mrs. Proudie, now at the top of her wrath - for it was plain to her the chaplain was taking too much upon himself. "Did anyone send you, sir?"

There was a dead pause in the room. The bishop sat twiddling his thumbs. How comfortable it would be, he thought, if they could fight it out between them; fight it out so that one should kill the other utterly, as far as diocesan life was concerned, so that he, the bishop, might know clearly by whom he ought to be led. If he had a wish as to which might prove victor, that wish was not antagonistic to Mr. Slope.

"Will you answer me, sir?" Mrs. Proudie repeated. "Who instructed you to call on Mr. Quiverful?"

"Mrs. Proudie," said Mr. Slope, "I am quite aware how much I owe to your kindness. But my duty in this matter is to his lordship. He has approved of what I have done, and having that approval, and my own, I want none other."

What horrid words were these which greeted the ear of Mrs. Proudie? Here was premeditated mutiny in the camp. The bishop had not yet been twelve months in the chair, and rebellion had already reared her hideous head in the palace.

"Mr. Slope," said Mrs. Proudie, with slow and dignified voice, "I will trouble you, if you please, to leave the apartment. I wish to speak to my lord alone."

Mr. Slope felt that everything depended on the present interview. Should the bishop now be repetticoated his thralldom would be complete and for ever. Now was the moment for victory or rout. It was now that Mr. Slope must make himself master of the diocese, or else resign his place and begin his search for fortune elsewhere.

"His lordship has summoned me on most important diocesan business," said Mr. Slope, glancing with uneasy eye at Dr. Proudie; "my leaving him at the present moment is, I fear, impossible."

"Do you bandy words with me, you ungrateful man?" said the lady. "My lord, is Mr. Slope to leave this room, or am I?"

His lordship twiddled his thumbs, and then proclaimed himself a Slopeite.

"Why, my dear," said he, "Mr. Slope and I are very busy."

That was all. There was nothing more necessary. Mr. Slope saw at once the full amount of his gain, and turned on the vanquished lady a look of triumph which she never forgot and never forgave.

Mrs. Proudie without further parley left the room; and then followed a close conference between the new allies. The chaplain told the bishop that the world gave him credit for being under the governance of his wife, and the bishop pledged himself with Mr. Slope's assistance to change his courses.

IV. - Mr. Slope Bids Farewell

As it proved, however, Mr. Slope had not a chance against Mrs. Proudie. Not only could she stun the poor bishop by her midnight anger when the two were alone, but she could assuage him, if she so willed, by daily indulgences.

On the death of Dr. Trefoil, the dean of Barchester, Mr. Slope had not shrunk from urging the bishop to recommend his chaplain for the post.

"How could you think of making such a creature as that dean of Barchester?" said Mrs. Proudie to her now submissive husband.

"Why, my dear," said he, "it appeared to me that you and Mr. Slope did not get on as well as you used to do, and therefore I thought that if he got this place, and so ceased to be my chaplain, you might be pleased at such an arrangement."

Mrs. Proudie laughed aloud.

"Oh yes, my dear, of course he'll cease to be your chaplain," said she. "After what has passed, that must be a matter of course. I couldn't for a moment think of living in the same house with such a man. Dean, indeed! The man has gone mad with arrogance."

The bishop said nothing further to excuse either himself or his family, and having shown himself passive and docile was again taken into favour, and spent the pleasantest evening he had had in his own house for a long time.

Mr. Slope did not get the deanery, though for a week he was decidedly the favourite - owing to the backing he received from the Jupiter. And Mr. Quiverful was after all appointed to the hospital, with the complete acquiescence of Mr. Harding.

Mr. Harding might have had the deanery, but he declined the office on the ground of his age and his inability to fit himself into new duties. In vain the archdeacon threatened, and in vain he coaxed; his father-in-law could not be made to accept it.

To Mr. Harding's infinite relief, Mrs. Bold regarded Mr. Slope's proposal with horror, and refused him with indignation. She had never thought of him as a possible suitor, and when he addressed her as "beautiful woman," and as "dearest Eleanor," and as "sweetest angel," and even contrived to pass his arm round her waist, it was more than she could bear. Mrs. Bold raised her little hand and just dealt him a box on the ear with such good will that it sounded among the trees - he had followed her into the garden - like a miniature thunderclap.

The news that the deanery was not for him ended Mr. Slope's prospects in Barchester. He was aware that as regarded the diocese Mrs. Proudie had checkmated him. He had, for a moment, run her hard, but it was only for a moment, and Mrs. Proudie had come forth victorious in the struggle.

Having received a formal command to wait upon the bishop, he went into Dr. Proudie's study. There, as he had anticipated, he found Mrs. Proudie together with her husband.

"Mr. Slope," began the bishop, "I think you had better look for some other preferment. I do not think you are well suited for the situation you have lately held. I will enclose you a cheque for any balance that may be due to you; and under the present circumstances it will, of course, be better for all parties that you should leave the palace at the earliest possible moment."

"If, however, you wish to remain in the neighbourhood," said Mrs. Proudie, "the bishop will mention your name to Mr. Quiverful, who now wants a curate at Puddingdale, and the stipend is £50 a year, sufficient for your requirements."

"May God forgive you, madam, for the manner in which you have treated me," said Mr. Slope; "and remember this, madam, that you yourself may still have a fall. As to the bishop, I pity him!"

Thus ended the intimacy of the bishop of Barchester with his first confidential chaplain.

Mr. Slope returned to town, and promptly consoled the widow of a rich sugar-refiner. He soon was settled with much comfort in Baker Street, and is now possessed of a church in the New Road.

Mr. Harding is still precentor, and still pastor of the little churc of St. Cuthbert's. In spite of what he has often said, he is not even yet an old man.



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