Framley Parsonage is the fourth of Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire Chronicles.
The story opens with Mark Robarts, boyhood friend of Ludovic Lufton. Lady Lufton, Ludovic’s mother, thinks Mark would make a fine vicar. So she pays for his training, gives him the living connected with Framley, and even finds a wife for him.
Mark is grateful for Lady Lufton’s graciousness to him, but he wants his own way occasionally. The one area he steps outside of Lady Lufton’s preference is in his friendships. He feels that to move up in the world, he needs to seek our relationships with some from higher society, introduced to him by Ludovic. Lady Lufton feels that these associates are not of high moral character, beside their being opposite from her politically. Nevertheless, Mark feels, and convinces his wife, that he needs to move in the circles of the elites.
It’s not long before Mark gets into trouble. He realizes that these people do not have the same values he has. But then he gets himself entangled in a mess when a Mr. Sowerby urges him to sign a bill for him (essentially to cosign a loan). Mark knows he doesn’t have the money to pay the bill if it should come to him, and he knows Sowerby has an awful reputation for running up debts. Yet Mark lets himself get talked into signing the bill.
Another plot line involves Mark’s sister, Lucy. When their father dies, Mark and his wife, Fanny, take Lucy into their home. Ludovic tries to draw out the quiet young women and soon becomes attracted to her. But his mother has another bride in mind for him—the statuesque beauty, Griselda Grantly, daughter of the archdeacon. Ludovic accommodates his mother by dancing with Griselda, but he finds her cold.
As these two plot lines develop and intersect, a few subplots wind in and out as well: a political falling out, a severe parson “proud of his poverty” whose family needs help that he won’t accept, two mothers trying to one-up each other in the choice of their daughters’ suitors, and even a visit from Dr. Thorne, the main character from the previous book in the Barsetshire Chronicles which bears his name.
It took me a little while to get into this story. I was not much interested in the political aspect and got irritated by Mark’s lack of backbone. But when his circumstances began to catch up with him and affect him, I began to sympathize with him more. Lucy was my favorite character, and I loved her story. The book has a heart-warming ending, with even Lady Lufton seeming more human and less severe.
Trollope continues to have his narrator speak as one of the community, though he never inserts himself into any of the scenes. The narrator also often breaks the “fourth wall” to speak directly to the reader.
Some of my favorite quotes:
It includes two populous villages, abounding in brickmakers, a race of men very troublesome to a zealous parson who won’t let men go rollicking to the devil without interference (p. 93).
I know it will be said of Lord Lufton himself that, putting aside his peerage and broad acres, and handsome, sonsy face, he was not worth a girl’s care and love. That will be said because people think that heroes in books should be so much better than heroes got up for the world’s common wear and tear. I may as well confess that of absolute, true heroism there was only a moderate admixture in Lord Lufton’s composition; but what would the world come to if none but absolute true heroes were to be thought worthy of women’s love? What would the men do? and what—oh! what would become of the women? (p. 136).
She confessed to herself that Griselda’s chance of a first-rate establishment would be better if she were a little more impulsive. A man does not wish to marry a statue, let the statue be ever so statuesque (p. 164).
She was so glad she knew it, that she might comfort him. And she did comfort him, making the weight seem lighter and lighter on his shoulders as he talked of it. And such weights do thus become lighter. A burden that will crush a single pair of shoulders will, when equally divided—when shared by two, each of whom is willing to take the heavier part—become light as a feather. Is not that sharing of the mind’s burdens one of the chief purposes for which a man wants a wife? For there is no folly so great as keeping one’s sorrows hidden (p. 218).
To endure with her lord all her lord’s troubles was easy to her; it was the work to which she had pledged herself. But to have thought that her lord had troubles not communicated to her,—that would have been to her the one thing not to be borne (p. 218)
So he went his way . . . thinking as he went which was most unreasonable in her wretchedness, his friend Lady Arabella or his friend Lady Scatcherd. The former was always complaining of an existing husband who never refused her any moderate request; and the other passed her days in murmuring at the loss of a dead husband, who in his life had ever been to her imperious and harsh, and had sometimes been cruel and unjust. (p. 254).
Wounds cannot be cured as easily as they may be inflicted (p. 271).
At the time of this writing, the Kindle edition of this book was free and the Audiobook was included as part of my Audible subscription. I mostly listened to the audiobook wonderfully read by Simon Vance, but I read a few parts in the Kindle edition.
I’m counting this book for the Classic from the 19th century category for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge.