Anthony Trollope’s The Warden (1855)

I only recently discovered the beauty of Anthony Trollope’s prose. I read The Warden (1855) for my comprehensive examinations and I was moved deeply. While the sequel – Barchester Towers  (1857) – is far more famous, I recommend that you begin your love affair with Trollope by reading this very short, and beautiful little book.

Trollope’s novel follows the ethical dilemma of Rev. Harding as he discovers that his position, and means of income and privilege, is the result of his church stealing money from the less fortunate. Harding’s journey of discovery and indecision is a moving experience. The Warden is one of only two novels that have made me cry. The horror of everyone in his or her reaction to Harding’s ultimate decision captures a real sense of disbelief.  Trollope looks to the ethics within the bureaucracy in religion to expose the flaws within unquestioned moral rule. There is a sense of culture not able to move forward. Ethics stop. Everyone loses.

There is no sentimental salvation for anyone. Yes, a marriage occurs, but that marriage is a compromise marked by a sense of guilt and disappointment. Harding is human. Regardless of your ideas on religion – I lead a very secular godless life so trust me when I say that you do not have to enjoy discourses of religion or faith to enjoy this novel. Trollope paints a picture of a disappointing terrible world where there is no solution and there is no means of returning to a position of innocence. Trollope breaks your innocence, and in the process, he wins your heart.

I recommend the Broadview Edition edited by Geoffrey Harvey, a lecturer at the University of Reading.  A well constructed scholarly edition that does justice to the beautiful literary prose of Trollope. If you need a good read this weekend, give The Warden a consideration.

Enjoy the long weekend!

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