Dr. Thorne

Discovering a new favorite author is one of the joys of the reading life.  It’s like receiving a box of chocolates which should last several weeks, but tastes so good that it is rapidly disappearing. 

Trollope is my chocolate.

The locus of the first two books in Trollope’s Barset Chronicles, The Warden and Barchester Towers, is a cathedral city. The conflicts of diocesan appointments, the juxtaposition of humble clerics with self-serving ecclesiastical climbers, and the quest of three very different men to marry a wealthy widow carry the narrative along. 

The setting in Dr. Thorne is out in the countryside where landed gentry struggle to maintain the purity of their class connections and suffer from want of money.  To this strata of society every potential marriage is evaluated by the ability of the person marrying into the family to provide either increased prestige or an infusion of cash.  One phrase surfaces repeatedly:  “Frank must marry money.”   Unfortunately, the woman Frank loves does not have money; therein resides the conflict to be resolved.

Opposite the gentry are the merchants, manufacturers and professionals who insist they are equal in dignity to the Earls, Counts and Baronets.   Wealth is a passport into the aristocracy, but a man like Dr. Thorne holds stubbornly to his right to enter into the society of anyone regardless of  his own birth or wealth.  Class consciousness is everywhere in this novel.

Trollope writes with humor, grace and insight.  His portrayal of the ebb and flow of an alcoholic written in 1858 rings true today.  Little gems like this pop up:

Even in those bitterest days God tempered the wind to the shorn lamb.

The expectation of some people that doctors should work only from altruistic motivation made me laugh aloud:

It would have behoved him, as a physician, had he had the feelings of a physician under his hat, to have regarded his own pursuits in a purely philosophical spirit, and to have taken any gain which might have accrued as a accidental adjunct to his station in life.

The Victorian Web is a good resource to learn more about Trollope.  Contributors include P.D. James, Antonia Fraser, Paul Johnson, Maeve Binchy, and Louis Auchincloss.   P.D. James has written an introduction to Dr. Thorne here.

Hawthorne’s quote on Trollope mirrors my thoughts:

“Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope? They precisely suit
my taste; solid, substantial, written on strength of beef and through
inspiration of ale, and just 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 made a show of.”

7 thoughts on “Dr. Thorne

  1. I love Trollope’s novels, and your chocolate analogy is perfect!  I think Dr. Thorne was my favorite in the Barchester series.  And although Trollope was a very prolific author, I still fear running out of books by him.  Thanks for the review!

  2. Thanks Laura. I’m looking forward to many, many more Trollope evenings in the future.Patti, I will have to go back and read it. I listened to The Warden on Librovox. I transcribed a few passages, but it would be nice to see them in print before me.

  3. This would be a new author for me…..your recommendation makes me investigate.
    In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you I have never read any Austen.  Only watched P&P and Emma.  When I read Carmen’s entry the other day, I came away wanting to read a biography of Edmund Burke.  Wierd?
    Although I havent formulated my next reading list, I am pretty sure that Dwelling Place by Erskine Clarke will be on it.  That’s an epic about a Southern family, which I started last Spring!
    Can you saw *sloooooow reader* 🙂 

  4. I love it how we have these crossroads in our reading worlds! Back in the fall, I ordered the first DVD for The Barchester Chronicles via those “if you liked this, you like this” Netflix notes. We watched a couple of episodes, dh thought it dragged too much and didn’t want to watch the rest, so it got returned and no more thoughts about finishing. Then, I learned about Trollope through your wonderful Latin teacher post. I was a little more interested in trying Barchester again, but haven’t. Yesterday, I was in B & N to pick out a good copy of Paradise Lost that had lots of white space for notes. And what do you think I found and picked up first? The Barchester Chronicles! Don’t know when I’ll ever get to it, but I have it. Btw, I love B & N’s editions with their lovely watercolor art on the front. Can you tell I often choose books by their covers? Thanks for the intro to Trollope! How do you pronouce his name anyway?

  5. Janie, I got my copy of Barchester Towers at B & N, too. Trollope’s name is pronounced TRAWL-up. There’s a funny play on names with the slimy Obadiah Slope. In the book one of the characters smirks that his name used to be Slop and he changed it to Slope. Maxine, I do hope you enjoy it. Even before I’ve finished it, I’m looking forward to re-reading it a few years from now.

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