First sentence: When young Mark Robarts was leaving college, his father might well declare that all men began to say all good things to him, and to extol his fortune in that he had a son blessed with so excellent a disposition.
Premise/plot: Framley Parsonage is the fourth novel in the Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. In my opinion, the women characters are the greatest strength of this novel. Mark's wife, Fanny; Mark's sister, Lucy; Miss Dunstable; Mrs. Crawley; even more difficult to like characters like Mrs. Harold Smith, Mrs. Proudie, and Lady Lufton.
So what is this one about? Mark Robarts is a vicar at Framley. He is married to a wonderful woman, Fanny, whose true strength and courage is not obvious at first or second glance perhaps. He gets into big, big trouble when he decides to sign his name alongside his new friend's name on a bill. Embarrassed that he could be held responsible for the money if his friend proves to be anything but, he keeps it a secret from almost everyone in his life. That bill--and another that follows it--haunt him throughout the novel until he has his epiphany moment.
At one point, Mark's sister, Lucy, comes to stay at the parsonage. Lord Lufton, Mark's close friend, falls in love with Lucy. But their love seems doomed almost from the start since Lady Lufton (Lord Lufton's (busybody) mother has set ideas about who is and isn't appropriate for her son to marry. She visits Fanny and tells her that Lord Lufton is off limits and that Lucy should make herself scarce. Fanny tells Lucy that she shouldn't fall in love with Lord Lufton, but it's too late.) Will Lord Lufton stand up to his mother? Will Lucy agree to be his wife? Will the novel end with a wedding?
Miss Dunstable, whom we met before, is still very much single. There are still men in pursuit of her. Mrs. Harold Smith would have her unworthy brother--admittedly unworthy, a scoundrel--Mr. Sowerby marry the incredibly wealthy Miss Dunstable. She even proposes on his behalf. But Miss Dunstable doesn't want that kind of husband. The man she has in mind, well, is more honorable: Dr. Thorne!
Here is part of his letter to her:
We have known each other now somewhat intimately, though indeed not very long, and I have sometimes fancied that you were almost as well pleased to be with me as I have been to be with you. If I have been wrong in this, tell me so simply, and I will endeavour to let our friendship run on as though this letter had not been written. But if I have been right, and if it be possible that you can think that a union between us will make us both happier than we are single, I will plight you a word and troth with good faith, and will do what an old man may do to make the burden of the world lie light on your shoulders.
Mr. Sowerby features a lot in this one, for better or worse. But every novel, make that every Victorian novel, needs a character to boo and hiss at when they enter the scene, right?!I do not know that I could add anything to the truth of this, if I were to write three times as much. All that is necessary is, that you should know what I mean. If you do not believe me to be true and honest already, nothing that I can write will make you believe it.
My thoughts: This was a reread for me. I think I liked it more the second time. I still struggled to like Mark for most of the novel. I think that is because it was hard for me to respect him. But when Mark comes to his senses, and stands strong and courageous, well, then my opinion began to change.
I really LOVED the characters of Lucy and Fanny and Miss Dunstable. The story line where Mary is trying to play matchmaker with her uncle, Dr. Thorne, and Miss Dunstable were priceless. I adored this couple so much.
Lucy was such a gem of a heroine. She was witty and compassionate. Her observations were great.
I also REALLY loved the fact that so many familiar faces pop up in this one. Even if old friends just show up for a couple of scenes, they're still there, still a reminder that Barchester is a place I'd love to visit.
Quotes: For my favorite quotes from the first half of the novel, see My Victorian Year #1.
- Is it not a good thing that grapes should become sour which hang out of reach? Is he not wise who can regard all grapes as sour which are manifestly too high for his hand?
- A man does not wish to marry a statue, let the statue be ever so statuesque. She could not teach her daughter to be impulsive, any more than she could teach her to be six feet high; but might it not be possible to teach her to seem so?
- That, I believe, is always the first thought in the mind of a good wife when her husband returns home. Has he had his dinner? What can I give him for dinner? Will he like his dinner? Oh dear, oh dear! there is nothing in the house but cold mutton.
- You are like a great many other people that I know. You want to eat your cake and have it. You have been eating it for the last twenty years, and now you think yourself very ill-used because the duke wants to have his turn.
- What wretchedness can exceed that of remembering from day to day that the race has been all run, and has been altogether lost; that the last chance has gone, and has gone in vain; that the end has come, and with it disgrace, contempt, and self-scorn — disgrace that never can be redeemed, contempt that never can be removed, and self-scorn that will eat into one’s vitals for ever?
- You have had your cake, and eaten it — eaten it greedily. Is not that sufficient for you? Would you eat your cake twice? Would you have a succession of cakes? No, my friend; there is no succession of these cakes for those who eat them greedily.
- But you must detest a man who professes to stand by his party, and then does his best to ruin it.
- All is fair in love and war, — why not add politics to the list? If we could only agree to do that, it would save us from such a deal of heartburning, and would make none of us a bit the worse.
- In society Griselda’s toes were more serviceable to her than her tongue, and she was to be won by a rapid twirl much more probably than by a soft word.
- Lord Lufton had not offered to her, nor given any signs that he intended to do so; and to give Griselda Grantly her due, she was not a girl to make a first overture. Neither had Lord Dumbello offered; but he had given signs, — dumb signs, such as birds give to each other, quite as intelligible as verbal signs to a girl who preferred the use of her toes to that of her tongue.
- “I wonder whether you will ever be sorry for the cruelty of your doings, or whether these things are really a joke to you.”
- A man in love seldom loves less because his love becomes difficult. And thus, when those moments were over, he would determine to tell his mother at once, and urge her to signify her consent to Miss Robarts.
- It would be a terrible curse to have to talk sense always.
- Any allusion to Mr. Slope acted on Mrs. Proudie as a red cloth is supposed to act on a bull; but when that allusion connected the name of Mr. Slope in a friendly bracket with that of Mrs. Proudie’s future son-in-law it might be certain that the effect would be terrific.
- Fanny, I shall always call you Don Quixote, and some day or other I will get somebody to write your adventures.
- They say that prosperity makes a man selfish. I have never tried that, but I am quite sure that adversity does so.
- Of the faults which a man commits he must bear the punishment.
- Success does beget pride, as failure begets shame.