Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

Framley Parsonage is my current Classics Club spin book. Although I read my previous spin book, Little Dorrit , I didn’t write a post about it. So, I decided to make an early start with Framley Parsonage to make sure I finished it before the 22nd August deadline – which I did!

Synopsis – Goodreads

A brilliant depiction of social climbing and scandal, Framley Parsonage tells the story of Mark Robarts, a young clergyman with ambitions beyond his small country parish of Framley. In a naive attempt to mix in influential circles, he makes a financial deal with the disreputable local Member of Parliament, but is instead brought to the brink of shame and ruin.

One of Trollope’s most enduringly popular novels, Framley Parsonage is an evocative portrayal of country life in nineteenth-century England, told with great compassion, humour and an acute insight into human nature. 

It is the fourth book in Anthony Trollope’s series, the Chronicles of Barsetshire, first published in serial form in the Cornhill Magazine in 1860, then in book form in 1861.

This is a long book – 688 pages in the Penguin classics edition – and begins slowly. It took me a while to settle into reading it and to sort out who all the characters are and how they relate to each other, There are several plot lines – there’s the clergyman Mark Robarts, the Vicar of Framley, and his attempts to climb up the church hierarchy. Mark through naivety, is bamboozled by Nathaniel Sowerby, a member of parliament. He guarantees a three-month bill of Sowerby’s for £400 (making Mark liable if Sowerby does not pay a £400 debt within that time) and then a further bill for £500. This does not go well for Mark!

Another plot line is that relating to Mark’s sister, Lucy and her on/off romance with Lord Lufton, much to the disapproval of his mother, Lady Lufton. Mark and Lord Lufton were childhood friends and Lady Lufton is Mark’s patroness, which causes problems all round, especially as she would much prefer her son to marry Griselda Grantley, the daughter of Doctor Theophilus Grantly, the Archdeacon of Barchester. There’s also a subplot involving Mrs Grantly and Mrs Proudie, Bishop Proudie’s wife, and their rivalry over their daughters’ marriages. There’s another marriage in the offing, that of the outspoken heiress, Martha Dunstable, to Doctor Thorne, the eponymous hero of the preceding novel in the series, Doctor Thorne.

Framley Parsonage is full of lifelike and interesting characters engaged in their everyday life and inevitable class inequalities and power struggles, described with a fair amount of wit and humour. Interspersed between the plotlines Trollope introduces several sections of political commentary on the Parliamentary shenanigans of the day, which I have to admit were less interesting to me. But it seems that not much has changed in the way the political parties carried on both in parliament and in their relationship with the press. The next book in the series is The Small House at Arlington, which I expect I’ll eventually get round to reading.

13 thoughts on “Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

  1. It sounds like a really involved story, Margaret, with a lot of interesting characters. I know what you mean about struggling to keep up with a large number of characters, but it sounds as though they’re all well enough drawn to keep the interest, and that’s so important to me. Glad you enjoyed this one.

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  2. I liked this series and got quite a way through it. I wonder now why I quit reading it. I think it might have been because I was having trouble finding the books. If I wanted to read it now, it’s been so long that I’d have to start over.

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          1. They do. I would definitely read the first two in that order and I read all of them in order but I can imagine that you can read them very well on their own. Especially the later ones.

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  3. I’ve only read one Trollope , The Way We Live Now, but really enjoyed it and agree from that that there is no difference between politicians then and now! I must make a start with this series, it sounds just as good!

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  4. I read this series years ago but I must admit I had forgoten the details of this one. With his political novels it’s very obvious that nothing has changed in that setting!

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