Minimal going out and no social contact, and now the libraries have closed – what does one do in this time of plague? Well, for one thing it’s a chance to reread some favourite novels rather than always having something new on the go. So… not ‘Middlemarch’, I listened to that as an audio book only a few weeks ago. ‘Anna Karenina’? Perhaps something a little more upbeat: things do not (spoiler alert!) end well for poor Anna. ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’? – well that at least, quite uncharacteristically for Hardy, has a happy ending, but let’s face it, Hardy completely loses interest in Gabriel and Bathsheba once their troubles are over, and so do we. ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’? Great until John Fowles goes all modernist and plays silly b’s with the ending. ‘Sunset Song’? Wonderful, but now I recall I foolishly lent it to someone and never got it back. ‘Kim’? A possible, but I feel I need something nearer to home. No, I think the man for these times is Trollope, in particular his ‘Chronicles of Barsetshire’, which means that I shall be starting with ‘The Warden’ and so arriving in a week or two at that most naively touching of literary valedictions, the closing paragraph of ‘The Last Chronicle of Barset’:
‘And now, if the reader will allow me to seize him affectionately by the arm, we will together take our last farewell of Barset and the towers of Barchester. I may not venture to say to him that, in this country, he and I together have wandered often through the country lanes, and have ridden together in the too well-wooded fields, or have stood together in the cathedral nave listening to the peals of the organ, or have together sat at good men’s table, or have confronted together the angry pride of men who were not good. I may not boast that any beside myself have so realised the place, and the people, and the facts, as to make such reminiscences possible as those which I should attempt to evoke by an appeal to perfect fellowship. But to me Barset has been a real county, and its city a real city, and the spires and towers have been before my eyes, and the voices of the people are known to my ears, and the pavements of the city ways are familiar to my footsteps. To them all I now say farewell. That I have been induced to wander among them too long by my love of old friendships, and by the sweetness of old faces, is a fault for which I may perhaps be more readily forgiven, when I repeat, with some solemnity of assurance, the promise made in my title, that this shall be the last chronicle of Barset.’
I was intrigued by the TV series, so long ago now. I have often dithered over the books: shall I, shall I not? But not yet decided either way.
What the excerpt you post provokes in me is how the languorous tone, the undemanding sentences, evoke such an attitude of quiet and reflection in the reader. There is alertness, too.
I was wondering, the present time emphasis on challenge and tight construction, does it reflect, or reflect and bolster up, our present malaise? Was, for example Brexit, so divisive and shattering because we have taught ourselves to live on the edge, thinking the edge is the cutting edge of newness, when maybe it was just the nerve’s edge/end? I have fought and fought to regain equanimity during Bxt but only succeeded minimally.
If you do have a go at them it is best to read them in order, though he doesn’t really hit full stride till the second, ‘Barchester Towers’. I have a soft spot for number 5, ‘The Small House At Allington’, despite the fact that its heroine, Lily Dale, drives me slightly mad – I mean, for God’s sake get over yourself, woman. Apparently it is John Major’s favourite book, which you may or may not take as a recommendation!
I know what you mean: politician’s can sour one’s taste.
When I get chance/out again, I will. Thanks David.