Framley Parsonage is book four in the Barsetshire Chronicles and it was my pick for the 19th century classic in the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 hosted at the blog Books and Chocolate. I have read the previous three novels in the Chronicles (naturally) and Framley Parsonage is similar to those preceding books in that it skewers the excess and/or abuse of power in the Church of England while also portraying a romance (or two). There are also a few reoccurring characters from the series that pop up in this title; such as the delightfully obnoxious Proudie family (introduced in the second book, Barchester Towers) and the rich but common Miss Dunstable (from the third book, Dr. Thorne).
However, the main story of Framley Parsonage mostly concerns itself with newly introduced characters who (unsurprisingly) live in the village of Framley. These characters are the widowed Lady Lufton of Framley Court, her grown son Ludovic, the current Lord Lufton and Ludovic’s childhood friend Mark Robarts, who is the vicar of the eponymous parsonage and Lady Lufton’s protégé. Mark is happily married to Fanny, a love match engineered by Lady Lufton and within the first few chapters, his younger, unmarried sister Lucy comes to live with the couple in the parsonage.
In the beginning, it is clear that Lady Lufton, while amiable and well-meaning, controls the lives of both her son and Mark Robarts. The plot thickens when both young men begin to chaff under her control. Mark, who grew up decidedly middle class, yearns to hobnob with the upper classes, hopefully thereby bettering his prospects both professionally and socially. Lord Lufton, meanwhile, wants to marry whom he pleases, in spite of his mother’s matchmaking.
The sin of pride as experienced in multiple ways is what really moves the various story lines: Lady Lufton’s pride in her son which threatens to estrange her from him, Mark’s sister Lucy Robarts’ pride that would keep her from the man she loves, Mark Robarts pride which prevents him from asking for help when his ambition threatens to ruin him, or the struggling neighboring vicar, Mr. Crawley’s pride which will not allow him to accept charity despite the desperate need of his wife and children, etc.
I look forward the finishing of this series in the next year or so and then moving on to the Palliser series novels. I am no expert on Victorian fiction, but of those authors I have read from this era thus far, Trollope is right up there with Dickens as my absolute favorite. I love in particular his gentle humor and his well-rounded characters. The edition I read (pictured above) is from a hard cover set published by Oxford University Press in 1989 which I
borrowed from my father. I hope he got them cheap since the first book had messed up annotations and the third book was missing about 50 pages (an obvious mis-print). But this title was in perfect condition.