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The Last Chronicle of Barset Paperback – December 17, 1981
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The final Barsetshire novel by Anthony Trollope, published serially in 1866-67 and in book form in 1867. It is a satirical view of a materialistic society. The principal figures of the novel appeared in earlier BARSETSHIRE NOVELS. It is the story--with elaborate complications--of a poor curate accused of stealing p20. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
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Septimus Harding, the Warden in the first novel of that name in the series, makes his final, quiet appearance. He is a good and loving man, a model clergyman, and a friend, even to his adversaries. His son-in-law, Archdeacon Grantly, takes center stage again. We remember him well from his central role in battling the new Bishop of Barchester in Barchester Towers, the second and most famous book in the series -- not as good, I think, as the novel being reviewed here. Now the archdeacon is angry with his son Henry over Henry's choice of bride, the lovely Grace, daughter of the main character in the story, the reverend Josiah Crawley, who is accused of stealing a check made out for twenty pounds. The mystery of how Mr. Crawley got the money begins the final novel and is not resolved until the end of the book. One of Trollope's most famous villain's, the Bishop of Barchester's wife, Mrs. Proudie, takes a great interest in Mr. Crawley's case, much to the dismay of her long suffering husband. We have watched Mrs. Proudie cause trouble and vexation since she was introduced to us in Barchester Towers.
Many more of our friends from past novels in the series make their entrances and exits as loose ends from previous stories finally get resolved. For example, Johnny Eames and Lily Dale, two of the main characters in The Small House at Allington, my least favorite novel in the series, at last come to a final decision concerning their relationship.
The reader of this review may be wondering if it is necessary to read all the books in the Barsetshire Novels to get full value, enjoyment, and appreciation of Trollope's final story. I don't think so, not that I don't recommend reading the first five books of the series. Trollope is careful to include enough information for the reader to make sense of the various plot lines drawn from the previous stories.
The Last Chronicle of Barset is a wonderful book, almost certain to delight lovers of classic English literature. It is Trollope at the height of his powers. He is a reader's best friend; that is the highest recommendation I can give for him.
One last comment: I read the Folio edition of this novel, which I recommend. This version includes many fine drawings carefully placed throughout the text; I think most readers will enjoy this complement to the story.
Josiah Crawley-The eccentric pastor of the poor Hogglestock bricklayer parish is accused of stealing a check for 20 pounds. Lawyer Mr. Toogood, the Grantleys and Lady Lufton seek to win him acquittal. We see this gloomy man put his wife Mary and daughters Grace and Jane through the purgatory of suffering and dread as his case is due to be brought up before the assizes. Crawley is one of the most interesting characters in all of Trollope's voluminous writing.
Several love stories are reported:
a. Johnny Eames still loves Lily Dale. Lily jilted him for the rake Adolphus Cosbie seven years previous to the opening of the novel. Johnny has a good job in London but Lily still says no. Will she marry Johnny or will she wed Adolphus? Or will she write two letters after her name "OM" for Old Maid? Read the novel and see!
b. Major Henry Grantley is the son of archdeacon Grantley. He is widowed with a small daughter. Henry falls in love with the intelligent and beautiful Grace Crawley daughter of the accused thief the Rev. Josiah Crawley. Will true love conquer?
c. The London artist Conway Dalrymple is torn between a married woman
and Miss Van Siever. Whom will he choose as his life's companion? This story has little to do with the action in Barsetshire and was added by Trollope to fulfill his contract for so many pages per month to a periodical.
In addition to the mystery regarding the theft of the check and the usual Trollopian love stories there are two key deaths of major characters in the Barset series:
a. The Rev. Septimus Harding-the aged fathere of Eleanor Arabin the dean's wife and Susan Harding the spouse of the archedeacon of Barset.
Mr. Harding is one of the kindest men seen in the pages of English fiction.
b. Mrs. Proudie-the busybody, interfering, harridan who has made her husband her uxorious tool dies of a heart attack in this final volume. She is one of the best comical characters in fiction.
There is also a suicide of a minor character Mr. Broughton.
I have read these Barset novels for many years and they are eminently worthy of rereading! Countless hours of pleasure and profitable wisdom await those who have the time and patience to devote to a huge Victorian novel. I was touched by Trollope's final paragraphs in which he bids adieu to Barset and the characters he so lovingly created with his genius pen.
This is the main plot, but there is a wealth of subplots, each worthy of its own novel. Among these is a continuation of John Eames' wooing of Lily Dale, carried over from "The Small House at Allington."
The Last Chronicle is the longest of the Barsetshire novels--and the best, considerably better in style than the more popular "Barchester Towers." Trollope's characterizations are, as usual, superb, among the very best in all literature. He skillfully interweaves all the various strands of the novel into a very satisfying whole. And he has largely freed himself from the sometimes annoying philosophical asides to the reader that detracted from some of his earlier novels. This book merits consideration as a true masterwork.