“In the latter days of July in the year 185–, a most important question was for ten days hourly asked in the cathedral city of Barchester, and answered every hour in various ways —- Who was to be the new bishop?”
War has broken out in the city of Barchester. The different factions are preparing by arming themselves with disingenuous weapons. Tongues are being exercised, rapier wit is being sharpened, and soon a victor will be declared.
The new chaplain, Mr. Obadiah Slope has arrived in Barchester with the new bishop Proudie and his termagant wife . Whilst Mr. Slope shows the high opinion he holds of himself, the clergy and certain townspeople take a strong dislike to his oily sycophancy and the fight is on. Will Archdeacon Grantly be able to run Mr. Slope out of Barchester? Or will Mr. Slope become the new Dean? Yet his marriage to the widow Eleanor Bold, Mr. Septimus Harding’s daughter, is a certainty. Or is it? Bertie Stanhope, the indolent son of Dr. Vessey Stanhope, is a contender for her affections but, oops ….. into the picture strides Mr. Arabin, vicar of St. Ewold and Grantly’s ally, to further muddy the marital waters. And, as for the battle over the appointment of the new warden of Hiram’s Hospital, will Mr. Harding recover this honoured position, or will Mr. Quiverful triumph over his competitor, effectively providing his wife and children with the support they had heretofore been lacking?
In a town amongst characters, where black can seem white, and up suddenly down, the romping hilarity of the story firmly keeps the reader engaged and attentive. Trollope, himself had a personal love for his masterpiece: “In the writing of Barchester Towers I took great delight. The bishop and Mrs. Proudie were very real to me, as were also the troubles of the archdeacon and the loves of Mr. Slope.” Sadly his publishers were not initially in accord, claiming the novel to be full of “vulgarity and exaggeration.” How fortunate, in spite of this initial critique, that this novel has captured the imagination and humour of readers worldwide for nearly 160 years, and has given the people of Barchester an immorality that was originally in jeopardy.