Framley Parsonage I
Framley Parsonage is the fourth in Trollope's series of novels set in his fictional "Barsetshire," located in Southwestern England. The "series" is very loosely organized, and it is possible to read most of the individual books on their own. The exceptions are, perhaps, Barchester Towers and The Last Chronicle. FP comes between Doctor Thorne and The Small House at Allington--a book I regard as one of Trollope's best. In FP we do again meet the odious Proudies--the Bishop and Mrs. Bishop of Barchester, but, surprisingly, the author anticipates his series of political novels, The Palisers, by introducing the Duke of Omnium at Gatherum Castle. ]
This novel chronicles the fortunes of the Rev. Mark Robarts. Now,Trollope is above all a novelist interested in character, and near the very beginning he shares his philosophy of character (such as we shall see again in his Autobiography) in his characterization of the hero.
But little has as yet been said, personally, as to our hero himself, and perhaps it may not be necessary to say much. Let us hope that by degrees he may come forth upon the canvas, showing to the beholder the nature of the man inwardly and outwardly. Here it may suffice to say that he was no born heaven's cherub, neither was he a born fallen devil's spirit. Such as his training made him, such he was. He had large capabilities for good—and aptitudes also for evil, quite enough: quite enough to make it needful that he should repel temptation as temptation only can be repelled. Much had been done to spoil him, but in the ordinary acceptation of the word he was not spoiled. He had too much tact, too much common sense, to believe himself to be the paragon which his mother thought him. Self-conceit was not, perhaps, his greatest danger. Had he possessed more of it, he might have been a less agreeable man, but his course before him might on that account have been the safer.
Our hero Mark Robarts, then,m is neither devil nor angel, with aptitudes for good and evil. The spectacular insight, given go early in the novel, is that if he had been more conceited, that is, thought too highly of himself, he might have been better able to resist temptation, when it came his way.
The cast of characters in the early chapters does not include many models of perfection. Robarts' wife is too wise not to see through his pretensions and too loyal to fail in supporting him. Lady Lufton is a bigoted Tory with a heart of gold, while Sowerby is a solid Whig of a rotten character. I have always found it interesting that while Trollope was himself a solid Whig, he is if anything more ruthless in his portrayal of the Whigs and their failings, while (after The Warden) even Archdeacon Grantly, ultra-Tory that he is, is portrayed with zest and affection.
I'll pause here and assume that this week readers will get through at least half a dozen chapters. I await your comments.