Thursday, 14 August 2014

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (with illustrations by John Everett Millais).

The Chonicles of Barsetshire ~
The Warden Barchester Towers Doctor Thorne Framley Parsonage 
Framley Parsonage is Anthony Trollope's fourth novel in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series, which I'm reading as part of Melissa and Amanda's read-along. It was published in 1861 and follows The Warden (1855), Barchester Towers (1857), and Doctor Thorne (1858).

In his autobiography, Trollope wrote of Framley Parsonage,
On my journey back to Ireland, in the railway carriage, I wrote the first few pages of that story. I had got into my head an idea of what I meant to write,—a morsel of the biography of an English clergyman who should not be a bad man, but one led into temptation by his own youth and by the unclerical accidents of the life of those around him. The love of his sister for the young lord was an adjunct necessary, because there must be love in a novel. And then by placing Framley Parsonage near Barchester, I was able to fall back upon my old friends Mrs. Proudie and the archdeacon. Out of these slight elements I fabricated a hodge-podge in which the real plot consisted at last simply of a girl refusing to marry the man she loved till the man's friends agreed to accept her lovingly. Nothing could be less efficient or artistic. But the characters were so well handled, that the work from the first to the last was popular,—and was received as it went on with still increasing favour by both editor and proprietor of the magazine. The story was thoroughly English. There was a little fox-hunting and a little tuft-hunting, some Christian virtue and some Christian cant. There was no heroism and no villainy. There was much Church, but more love-making. And it was downright honest love,—in which there was no pretence on the part of the lady that she was too ethereal to be fond of a man, no half-and-half inclination on the part of the man to pay a certain price and no more for a pretty toy. Each of them longed for the other, and they were not ashamed to say so. Consequently they in England who were living, or had lived, the same sort of life, liked Framley Parsonage. I think myself that Lucy Robarts is perhaps the most natural English girl that I ever drew,—the most natural, at any rate, of those who have been good girls. She was not as dear to me as Kate Woodward in The Three Clerks, but I think she is more like real human life. Indeed I doubt whether such a character could be made more lifelike than Lucy Robarts.
Though I loved Lucy Robarts, Framley Parsonage isn't, in my opinion, the finest of the series (so far), and yet it was his first big seller, and a book that would secure his fame. To be fair to it, though, I should point out it was unlikely I would get into anything last weekend, and I am still excited to move on to The Small House at Allington.

Framley Parsonage has two main plots to it, one I was interested in, one not so much. Firstly, there is Mark Robarts, a young vicar who, whilst on the whole a decent sort, finds himself seduced by high society life which he is unable to afford without a loan from the unscrupulous money-lender Mr. Sowerby (a Member of Parliament). As with all the very best of Trollope's characters we see a well-rounded portrayal of Mark - it's too easy to present a clergyman as all good, as one author may, or all bad, as another one would. Trollope's characters are human, which is what I love about him.

The second plot concerns Mark's sister Lucy and his friend Lord Lufton. The pair fall in love, however Lucy prudently refuses until they have Ludovic, Lord Lufton's, blessing. Lady Lufton however is set upon her only son marrying Griselda Grantly (the Grantlys we will remember from The Warden and Barchester Towers). Social class is key to her decision, and for that Framley Parsonage is rather reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel (I believe I said something similar of Doctor Thorne).

It is, as with all the Trollope novels I've read, very well drawn. Lucy Robarts is the perfect Trollope heroine (in fact Trollope was very proud of her) - like Mary Thorne of Doctor Thorne, Eleanor Bold of The Warden, and, leaving for a moment the Chronicles of Barsetshire, Mary Lovelace of Is He Popenjoy?, she is strong, very moral, and above all good, yet she is no insipid, dull 'angel'. She holds her ground against Lady Lufton in one of the strongest scenes of all Trollope's Barchester novels. For that scene alone Framley Parsonage is worth reading!

So yes, whilst I wasn't in Trollope's grip reading this novel, it is very good. Read at another time, I do believe I would have loved it. And I must say I enjoyed the return of the Grantlys and the Proudies!

Finally, one more thing: I learned that one of my favourite artists John Everett Millais illustrated Framley Parsonage, which appeared in the Cornhill magazine (1860), and in the first edition (published by Smith, Elder & co in 1861). Here are the six illustrations, each of them are named however it would give away the plot so I'll refrain (the names can be found here):

← Pʀᴇᴠɪᴏᴜsʟʏ: Doctor Thorne


  1. I am planning on starting Framley Parsonage just as soon as I'm done with the move. I'm excited to read it because reading Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw is what inspired me to read this series. I'll catch up on this readalong eventually!

    1. Well, if it helps I'm not planning on reading The Small House at Allington until probably mid-September :)

      Good luck with the move! :)

  2. Sorry I can't read your review (which I'm certain is excellent as always) because I've only just started reading Doctor Thorne. :-)

    I would like to ask you which is your favourite book of the series so far?

    1. I like them *all*, but I think I'm going to go with The Warden. That's not to say it all goes downhill, far from it, I just love The Warden :)

  3. I coudn't help comparing this one to Tooth and Claw while I was reading it, but that wasn't a bad thing. That scene between Lady Lufton and Lucy was one of my favorites in the whole series!

    1. That was good - I loved Lucy for that :)


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