When Elizabeth Gaskell declared: “I wish Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage for ever. I don’t see any reason why it should come to an end” she quite clearly didn’t have the pay day spoils of a visit to the book farm and an amazon binge sitting next to her, or a tempting looking pile of hitherto neglected Christmas gifts. I’ve ended up feeling a lot like I have been reading it forever.
Having said that ‘Framley Parsonage’ is the Barchester Chronicle I’ve enjoyed most after ‘Barchester Towers’. It’s not as consciously funny (although the exchanges between Mrs Grantly and Mrs Proudie are just genius) but there’s a lot of good stuff going on in there and I wouldn’t wanted to have rushed through it even if I could have. Once upon a time I picked up books like this read a hundred pages or so and then got distracted and started something else, the shortest and most sensational books got finished and the result is I have dozens of part read great works of literature propping up the shelves. ‘Framley Parsonage’ is exactly the reason I try and be more disciplined – any effort expanded on it has been more than repaid (but heaven’s am I ready for a couple of novellas).
This one isn’t as plot driven (and I use that term loosely with reference to the Barchester books) as The Small House at Allington, or at least it doesn’t concentrate so specifically on one plot. Instead there are almost four books in one – there’s the story of Mark Robarts the unfortunate clergy man backed into signing bills for a dodgy politician who leaves him high and dry. There’s the story of Miss Dunstable the fabulously wealthy heiress to a cosmetics fortune – she’s middle aged and none too attractive – will she find a man to like her for herself or will she succumb to a fortune hunter? Then there’s Griselda Grantly (somehow the Grantly’s have lost 2 children since ‘Barchester Towers’ and Griselda has turned into a cold hearted beauty) and her adventures on the marriage market and finally there’s Lord Lufton; will he be beguiled by Griselda’s looks or will he succumb to the more subtle (but worthy) charms of Mark’s sister?
Almost a p.s. – I finished ‘Framley Parsonage’ last night, started writing about it straight away, and have since started reading something very different only to find myself missing Trollope. I’m really not ready to tackle ‘The Last Chronicle of Barset’ yet but I absolutely want to know what happens next - I have much more sympathy for Mrs Gaskell’s point of view than I did 24 hours ago. I should also say that Victorian Geek has also just written about Framley Parsonage – her response to it is altogether more educated than mine (she uses quotes and all sorts) and is undertaking a challenge to finish all of Trollope’s novels (which she’s doing at a pace that I’m frankly envious of) it’s possibly my favorite blog at the moment and on the off chance that anyone has a passion for the Victorian and doesn’t know it – well go and have a look.
And finally (I promise) my penguin edition features George Elgar Hicks 'Woman's Mission: Companion To Manhood' on the cover. It's an apt choice for 'Framley Parsonage' and is almost a novel in itself.