Classics Club: The Warden by Anthony Trollope

I’m trying to tackle my Classics Club list seriously this year, so my goal is to read and review one per month. I decided this month to go for one that I owned – yes for reading my own books! I had never read Anthony Trollope before and thought he was an author I should sample. I found an older paperback edition of the first two novels in his famous Chronicles of Barsetshire – The Warden and Barchester Towers – at a used book store for $2.50. I also took the plunge and subscribed to for the audio book version, just in case the book was too dense to get through on paper alone.

Not the prettiest cover ever!


I’m happy to say that I enjoyed both versions – Trollope’s tone is light-hearted and conspiratorial and I didn’t find the writing to be difficult or dense in any way. The characters and story were engaging enough to keep my interest, mostly. (There were a few sections I thought could have used an editor, but that’s true of many classics, I think.) The narrator of the audio book, Simon Vance, has a melodious, soothing voice. After all the dreadful news at home and around the world the past couple of weeks, it was relaxing and comforting to sink into a world where the biggest problem was whether or not someone deserved the salary they were getting.

Ah yes, the plot: The titular Warden, Mr. Harding, has his quiet, pleasant life turned upside down by, of all people, his likely future son-in-law. John Bold takes it upon himself to question whether or not Mr. Harding’s 800-pounds-a-year salary as Warden of the old-age home that the Church is running is just under the provisions of the benefactor’s will as it was written. (I must admit, I didn’t really get why he decided to do this. I may have missed something and if you’ve read this, please enlighten me.) Lawyers are hired on both sides, and the press gets wind of the “scandal” and starts smearing Mr. Harding’s good name. And he really is a decent chap – the old men in the home love him, he takes good care of them and grounds and gardens, and plays his violincello for the men regularly. His younger daughter Eleanor lives with him, and everyone seems confident that Mr. Bold will propose to her soon. His oldest daughter is married to the Archdeacon, Dr. Grantley. Grantley has a very forceful personality and is incensed by what he sees as a frivolous attack on the Church. When Harding suggests that he resign the position, because he can’t bear the personal attacks, Grantley maintains that he must not because he’d be putting future Wardens in a bad position. Grantley is not a very likeable character, but he’s not cartoonishly villainous – just very fixed in the certainty of his opinions and very pushy.

Anyway, there’s not a lot of plot here, really. Will Harding resign? If he resigns how shall he not starve? Will Bold and Eleanor still get married now that he’s stirred up all this trouble for her father? Will the old men at the home get their extra hundred pounds a year? I enjoyed this novel, and I wanted to see how things would resolve, but I don’t think it convinced me that I need to read anything else by Trollope. What do you think – have you read any of the other Chronicles of Barsetshire? Or any of his other works? Please let me know if you think I should add something else by him to my next Classics Club list (if I make one – ha!)


25 thoughts on “Classics Club: The Warden by Anthony Trollope

  1. I’m actually not familiar with Trollope’s work, but I did find that most of his stuff is on Project Gutenberg (free ebooks) if you find something you just gotta have.

    I listened to the audiobook Interview with the Vampire last year, which was narrated by Simon Vance, and I also found him soothing to listen to. He brought some intensity when Louis is asking questions about God and morality, but I wished his Lestat was a bit better. Overall, I want someone French in some capacity to take on Lestat. He’s always British or American, and Lestat is so very French!

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  2. You enjoyed this a bit more than I did, though I thought it was a pretty readable classic. I don’t think I’m tempted to read more of the Barchester Chronicles, at least not for now. I do still own a few paperbacks from the series, though, and won’t get rid of them just yet.

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  3. You’re making such good progress on this challenge – go Laila! I’ve never read anything by Trollope, but it seems like most people really enjoy him. I’m glad this one held your interest!

    I love that you joined and that you’ve figured out a way to work in audiobooks. I’ve had such a hard time with them lately!

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      1. There’s so much grabbing our attention in the world, isn’t there?! We basically buy everything on Amazon now, so I know what you mean about Amazon getting enough of your money!

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  4. I read The Warden several years ago and really enjoyed it. I have not read Trollope since, though I don’t intend that to be any kind of commentary on him, only that I got distracted by so many other books 🙂

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  5. Well… if memory serves me right, Bold believed that the bequest was meant to help the poor old men of the parish and that over the years as the value of it had grown, more and more was given to the Warden than to the poor. So he objected to the Warden getting £800 a year and a nice house, when the poor old men still only got whatever small sum they got, which I can’t remember. He felt that either the poor should get more each, or that more poor people than the original twelve could be helped with the money. I think! 🙂

    I must say I enjoyed The Warden, but I loved the next in the series – Barchester Towers. Well worth reading. After that, I wasn’t as impressed by the other books in the Barchester Chronicles – in fact, I can’t remember now if I even read the last couple. The Warden and Barchester Towers together were adapted by the BBC way back in the ’80s under the title The Barchester Chronicles and it’s great. The wonderful (and youngish) Alan Rickman played Obadiah Slope, who I think only appears in the second book, and Donald Pleasance played the Warden.


    1. That sounds right but I still can’t believe he stirred up all that trouble for his probable future father-in-law! Now that I think about it, if Mr. Harding was such a good man why didn’t he himself question the situation sooner? Oh well, it worked out in the end! I may try Barchester Towers sometime after I’ve finished my Classics Club 50 list. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  6. As it happens, I have been swithering about reading the Barsetshire novels myself, as I am a fan of Victorian literature, but for some reason, I have not got around to reading any Trollope as yet. Most reviewers of the series I have come across seem to think that the Wardon is more of a prologue than a novel in its own right, and that Barchester towers is where the stories really start to gather momentum. If you have Barchester on your list, I reckon it is probably worth reading.

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  7. Congrats on another selection from your own shelves (I know, I know – hard!) and on finding it more readable than you’d thought.

    I’ve heard SO many times that one shouldn’t begin with The Warden because it’s so dry and thin (literally) but I just couldn’t start with book two. However, I might have enjoyed it a little more than you did too – although not enough to run out and read book two straightaway either. Still, I do agree that sometimes first books can be just a ghost of what’s yet to come. In my mind, I do still want to read on, but now I’ve waited too long and feel I’d need to reread The Warden!

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      1. That’s a good idea. I’ll keep it in mind! I do think I’d like to read on in the series, especially as everyone says the later volumes are so chewy and satisfying.

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  8. I’m not particularly fluent in my classics, so Trollope is a new name to me. That said, how could I avoid reading someone with the last name Trollope?! It’s so wonderful.

    Wait. Are you considering not participating in the Classic Club anymore? Or just avoiding all lists-related Classics Club activities? Just curious!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Whew! When you implied you wouldn’t be making another Classics Club list at the end of your post, my brain said that lack of list means lack of Classics Club! Apparently, my brain was just being silly. I like reading your Classics Club posts; they make me feel well-educated. 🙂

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