The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope.

That I have been induced to wander among them too long by my love of old friendships, and by the sweetness of old faces, is a fault for which I may perhaps be more readily forgiven, when I repeat, with some solemnity of assurance, the promise made in my title, that this shall be the last chronicle of Barset.
I have reached the end of Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire (1855 - 1867).  I've been reading this series since March along with Melissa and Amanda, and it's been one of the most enjoyable read-alongs I've ever partaken in. I love Anthony Trollope and I had been meaning for quite some time to read the Chronicles of Barsetshire, so when Melissa and Amanda announced their intentions I was excited to join!

The Chronicles of Barsetshire is a six book series made up of the following:

They are set in the fictional cathedral town of Barsetshire, which was inspired by Salisbury in Wiltshire (the south west of England), and are largely concerned with the clergy and the gentry of the county, and whilst much of the novels are concerned with love and marriage, there are too dominating themes of social class and politics: the politics of England, the clergy, and socio-economic politics between the people of the county. It's not unlike Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1871-72) in its scope and its panoramic vision: it's almost a snapshot of country life in the 1850s and 1860s, albeit fictional. To quote Nathaniel Hawthorne, Trollope's writing is
as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were being made a show of.
Previously we have met a vast array of characters from the town of Barset and the surrounding countryside, and in The Last Chronicles of Barset the characters come together for this final drama.

Writing in his autobiography (An Autobiography, 1883), Trollope acknowledges some weaknesses he perceives, yet says of The Last Chronicle, "I regard this as the best novel I have written". I am inclined to agree, as indeed are many other Trollope fans. It is his richest, and his darkest novel within the series (I haven't read enough of Trollope to comment on all his works). I've said many times these novels contain a large shot of Jane Austen, and so too does this novel, but there is equally a strong dash of Dickens at his bleakest. Trollope describes the unifying plot in his autobiography -
[The plot] consisted in the loss of a cheque, of a charge made against a clergyman for stealing it, and of absolute uncertainty on the part of the clergyman himself as to the manner in which the cheque had found its way into his hands.
As this drama unfolds we meet again all the old faces: Septimus Harding, the Grantlys, the Proudies (Mrs. Proudie is more sinister than ever), Doctor Thorne, Doctor Tempest, Madalina Demolines, Lady Lufton, Frank Arabin, Mark Robarts, and, rather regrettably, Lily Dale whose story continues from The Small House at Allington (Lily Dale is my least favourite Trollopian heroine), and we learn their fates. We also meet Grace, Reverend Crawley's daughter, who is one of my favourite Trollopian heroines.

The Last Chronicles of Barset is fantastically engaging, and, I want to point out, the book that cured me of a rather lengthy reading rut. Previously I would never have recommended such a long book to cure a reading rut, but this nearly 800 page novel is what did it. I enjoyed this so much, revisiting much loved characters and meeting Grace Crawley and her suitor, possibly one of the finest heroes in literature, Henry Grantly. It's very difficult to write more without spoiling the book if you haven't read it, so all I will say is this book is now a firm favourite. I loved reading the Chronicles of Barset, I loved The Warden and Barchester Towers in particular, and my absolute struggle through The Small House at Allington was very worth it just to reach this final novel. I cannot speak highly enough of it! It is such a joy to meet old favourites and to learn of their progression. There are shocks, too: there are black clouds in Barsetshire, but Trollope, whilst particularly dark in some places, remains one of my favourite authors for his easy conversational style of writing. I could not put this book down.

What else remains but to beg everyone to read the Chronicles of Barsetshire, and share some of my favourite illustrations, this time by George Housman Thomas, published by Smith, Elder & co. in 1867.


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Further Reading

Comments

  1. If I had to pick just one of Trollope's novels, which would be almost impossible to do, I think it would be this one, for all the things that you talk about. I love meeting characters again who feel like old friends. I am particularly fond of Henry and Grace's story. But I also love Mr Harding's, who was there at the start of the story and now at the end.

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    1. I love Mr Harding as well, he's one of my favourite characters of all time :) Before Last Chronicle I would have picked The Warden as my favourite Trollope, but I do think Last Chronicle has the edge over it :)

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  2. I'm still kicking myself for not participating in this readalong! I will definitely get to the series on my own.

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    1. Do, it's so worth it! I'm so grateful to Amanda and Melissa for organising it! :)

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  3. I'm so encouraged by your review! I can't wait to get back to some of my favourite characters. I've still yet to start Framley Parsonage but it's exciting to know that the best will be saved until last. And I'm happy that the story revolves around a clergyman. For some reason, they seem eminently more interesting!

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    1. I agree! :) I hope you enjoy FP, and I'll be interested to see what you make of Small House at Allington. As I said in my post Virginia Woolf said it was a perfect novel and I regret that I couldn't see that, but maybe you will!

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  4. I was a little worried after the last one, especially since you were just plunging ahead and the continuing adventures of LD and JE are a third of this book. But I kept my mouth shut. It was all going to work pout fine. It did.

    When you read Framley Parsonage, did you guess that Rev. Crawley of all people was going to be the star of a later novel?

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    1. Not at all! I was very surprised. But Crawley is a great character.

      Trollope's amazing, isn't he? Admire him so much!

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  5. I love those illustrations. I'm half way through the Palliser novels, and I love them, but now I am so eager to start on the Chronicles of Barsetshire.

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    1. Are you enjoying the Palliser novels? I'm looking forward to them, but I admit I'm slightly nervous now - can anything be as good as The Last Chronicle?! :)

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  6. I'm so glad you loved this one! Those illustrations are absolutely gorgeous too. Thank you for sticking with me through the whole series. It was such a treat to read about Barsetshire with others. I loved reading your thoughts on each of the novels and you added so much to my appreciation of the books!

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    1. Thanks for hosting it - I wouldn't have done it without you and Amanda :)

      So.... when is the right time to ask about the Palliser read-along? ;)

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  7. I didn't think I'd be interested in Trollope & avoided him for years but I just finished listening to a BBC dramatic audio version of The Complete Barchester Chronicles and liked it so much I now want to read all the books.

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    1. Excellent! I love Trollope - he wrote so much, though, so I've only read a *tiny* percentage! Are you planning to read his other series, The Pallisers? I've read the first one, hoping to read the rest next year :)

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    2. Sorry, I'm a bit late responding! Not yet. I'd like to read The Small House & Dr Thorne. The BBC audio didn't include the books in their entirety.

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    3. Ah, that's a shame. I didn't like The Small House, but Dr Thorne was good. I think there was a play on Radio 4 fairly recently, not sure how good it was but maybe there's the audio of that available to buy somewhere :)

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