Group read: Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope

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Group read: Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope

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Editado: Feb 28, 2013, 11:01pm

Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope (1858)

Hello, all! Welcome to the group read of Anthony Trollope's Dr Thorne, the third novel in his "Chronicles of Barsetshire" series.


Published in 1858, Dr Thorne was Anthony Trollope's seventh novel, and was partially written in Egypt and in transit there, after Trollope was sent to the region in his position of Post Office surveyor. (This may account for the novel's idealised portrait of the English countryside.) Famously, for reasons that have never really been explained, Trollope had asked his brother Thomas to suggest a plot for him, something that he never did again. Make of that what you will. In any case, it was Thomas Trollope who came up with the legal points of birth and inheritance upon which the broader story of Dr Thorne is based.

This factoid is notable because Anthony Trollope is inarguably not a "plot person": his books are character-driven, with his plots often as haphazard as life itself. He disliked the kind of suspense novels being written by his contemporary, Wilkie Collins, which depended for their effects upon keeping information from the reader. Trollope, in fact, prided himself on not keeping such secrets - to the extent that he sometimes gives away his endings at the outset. To his way of thinking, a novel was about the journey, not the destination. Rather than withhold information, Trollope's frequent approach is rather to tell the reader something that his characters don't know, giving them a sound basis on which to assess those characters' choices and actions. Such is the case in Dr Thorne, in which the novel's eponymous hero (and the reader) ends up in possession of two secrets vital to the future of his niece, Mary.

The second significance of Anthony accepting Thomas's plot is that the back-story of Dr Thorne is dark and violent in a way unusual to novels of this kind.

This novel is the third in the "Chronicles of Barsetshire", but it has few overt connections to its predecessors, The Warden and Barchester Towers, which is a relief to some readers and a disappointment to others. This is Trollope's "world-building" novel, in which he expands upon his imagined realm of Barsetshire, describing the county as a whole and populating it with characters who would reappear again and again over the rest of the Barset novels and also Trollope's political "Palliser" series, including the Duke of Omnium, the de Courcy family, and the Greshams of Greshemsbury. Conversely, we see little of the residents of Barchester. Bishop and Mrs Proudie - or should I say, Mrs and Bishop Proudie - appear briefly, but the others are mentioned only in passing. Dr Thorne himself is related to the Thornes of Ullathorne, who were introduced in Barchester Towers, but the Squire and Miss Thorne, too, appear briefly in only one chapter.

In the opinion of many people, the triumph of Dr Thorne is the introduction of Martha Dunstable, who in the hands of any other author at this time would probably be either a caricature or a figure of ridicule. It is because of characters like Miss Dunstable that we are compelled to forgive (or at least overlook) Trollope's occasional outbreaks of sexism and snobbery.

I should perhaps say that there is more about politics in Dr Thorne than I remembered, but for the most part in terms of general observations about conditions in England at the time, rather than any reference to specific people or events.

The story of Dr Thorne, put simply, is about marriage for love versus marriage for money; though it deals also with a variety of other pressing social concerns. And I may say that I find it slightly exasperating that a man can write a novel like this and have it accepted into the pantheon of English classic novels and find a wide male readership, whereas female authors on the same topic tend to attract sniffy remarks about "women's issues". Is it because Dr Thorne keeps a strong male focus? Is it because it spends quite as much time talking about money as about love? Or is it because men by definition don't write about "women's issues"? :)

Editado: Feb 28, 2013, 9:03pm

As for "leading" this group read, I haven't the faintest idea of the best way to go about it! I'm not actually good at group reads, or at least not when they assign numbers of chapters within a timeframe. I prefer to go at my own pace, be that faster or slower; and my experience with the tutored reads is that people find these "classic" novels more enjoyable if they are able to take their time with them and not feel pressured.

My idea for Dr Thorne, which has 47 chapters, is to set up 3 threads, for Chapters 1 - 16, 17 - 32, and 33 - 47. I will then move through the chapters providing background notes for anything that seems to need it, and people can ask questions or raise topics of discussion around those chapters as they read at their leisure. I would only ask of everyone that they indicate the chapter that they are referring to in bold, so that other readers have the opportunity to avoid spoilers.

Does that suit everyone? If anyone has other suggestions, please speak up! I would be very glad of any guidance.

Speaking of SPOILERS, I am not only going to say what I always say at this point, DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION of your copy of Dr Thorne, but I am going to go further and say DO NOT READ THE NOTES if you have an annotated copy. Seriously. Far too many editions in this series (including the one I have) casually reveal what happens in the later books in their notes. In fact, I'm going to suggest that you don't even read the introduction and notes after you finish, unless you've already read the rest of the Barsetshire novels. It's just not worth it.

I suggested a group read rather than a tutored read for Dr Thorne because I didn't remember it being as difficult, that is, as full of topical references, as The Warden or Barchester Towers; and while that's true, there are still some aspects of the novel that people might find obscure. If so, please ask questions! For that matter, ask questions if there's anything at all you're not sure about - whether it is to do with puzzling social conventions, unfamiliar words, a forgotten plot point or who a character is. Don't be shy: if we've learned anything from the tutored reads, it's that questions are invariably helpful to more people than the one brave enough to ask. :)

Editado: Mar 1, 2013, 4:02pm

With thanks to Heather, who originally posted it, here is a map of Barsetshire for reference (slightly blurry, but the best I can do; the system is being uncooperative):

Editado: Mar 10, 2013, 8:06pm

And finally, something I know that Madeline has found helpful during our tutored reads, I will be putting together a character list for Dr Thorne, to help you get a grip on who is who, and (perhaps more importantly) who is related to who. I tend to add to these as we go along, as characters are first encounted, also to avoid spoilers. Strikethroughs indicate that a character is dead.

The characters of Dr Thorne:

Dr Thomas Thorne - who lives and practises in the village of Greshamsbury, in East Barsetshire; second cousin to the Thornes of Ullathorne
Mary Thorne - his niece who lives with him
Henry Thorne - the younger brother of Dr Thorne, Mary's father

Francis Newbold Gresham Sr - Squire of the property of Greshamsbury
Lady Arabella Gresham - his wife, the sister of the Earl de Courcy
Francis Newbold Gresham Jr (Frank) - their son and heir
Augusta Gresham
Beatrice Gresham
Sophia Gresham (and her unnamed twin sister)
Nina Gresham

The Earl de Courcy - a leading nobleman of West Barshetshire; a Whig
The Countess (Rosina) de Courcy
Lord Porlock - their eldest son and heir
The Honourable George de Courcy
The Honourable John de Courcy
Lady Amelia de Courcy
Lady Rosina de Courcy
Lady Margaretta de Courcy
Lady Alexandrina de Courcy

The Reverend Caleb Oriel - the rector of Greshamsbury
Patience Oriel - his sister

Roger Scatcherd - a stone-mason of Barchester, Mary Thorne's uncle; later Sir Roger Scatcherd, railway contractor
Lady Scatcherd - his wife
Louis Philippe Scatcherd - their son
Mary Scatcherd - Roger's sister, Mary Thorne's mother

Mr Moffat - Augusta Gresham's fiance; the Whig member for Barchester, backed by the de courcys and the Duke of Omnium

Dr Fillgrave - a doctor of Barchester; a rival and enemy of Dr Thorne
Mr Yates Umbleby - an attorney, and Squire Gresham's agent
Mr Winterbones - Sir Roger's confidential clerk

Mrs Umbleby - wife of Mr Yates Umbleby
Miss Gushing - a lady of Greshamsbury

Editado: Feb 28, 2013, 9:04pm

For the rest it need only be said---if you'll be joining in for this group read, speak up and let everybody know! :)

Editado: Mar 8, 2013, 3:59pm

Chapter 1:

In which we are introduced to the Greshems, the de Courcys, and the politics of Barsetshire.

While most of the family stuff is self-explanatory, some of the political material might need some explanation. The Reform Bill referred to in this chapter is that of 1832, which was very much concerned with political reform, the redistribution of electoral boundaries, and increased representation for the rapidly-growing manufacturing areas in the north as well as lowering the property ownership requirements to give men the vote.

Barsetshire itself was then divided into East and West, with two members of the House of Commons representing each region. It so fell out that the rural, agricultural East was predominantly Tory (Conservative), and usually represented in Parliament by the Greshams; while the more urbanised West was predominantly Whig (Liberal) and usually represented by the de Courcys, or someone backed by the de Courcys.

As is very clear from the tone of much of the writing, Trollope himself was a Tory and generally (at least at this stage of his writing career) uses the other factions as a means of satirising politics.

Feb 28, 2013, 9:36pm

I'm in and ready to go! I'll start this weekend.

Feb 28, 2013, 9:58pm

Hi, Carrie - welcome!

Feb 28, 2013, 10:51pm

Yippeee~ I plan to start reading tonight to get a head start on March. I'll probably get through TWO WHOLE PAGES before I fall asleep. I'm in and excited!

Mar 1, 2013, 5:34am

I shall be reading along. I've read this in print some years ago but I now have the audio version, read by Timothy West, so I shall be listening to this and following along on my Kindle.

Mar 1, 2013, 6:28am

I will be following this group read thread and hope to find time to reread the book too: it is about 20 years I think since I last read it.

Mar 1, 2013, 7:43am

I'm in, and am pleased you've set this up in a way that allows us all to move at our own pace. I had a slight feeling of panic when I realized how long this book is and I have committed to two other group reads this month. I will probably read Doctor Thorne during March and April rather than trying to get it all done in March. Also, it may be a week or so before I begin.

Thanks for the introductory messages and the list of characters! It's good to be back in Barsetshire.

Editado: Mar 1, 2013, 4:04pm

Welcome, Peggy, Kerry, Genny and Laura! Thrilled to have you all here!

Laura, you're right - it is a long book (longer than I remembered; perhaps a little longer than it needs to be), but I must say I don't find it a difficult read. It has little of the specific situational stuff that tends to baulk people with The Warden and Barchester Towers, and while it does suffer in some areas from what I might call "Victorian sentence structure", on the whole it's a character study and generally quite accessible, I think. It does take a few chapters to get properly going, though - which the narrator admits. :)

Mar 1, 2013, 5:17pm

I'll be joining in later in the month. I still have Barchester Towers to finish. I may be late to the Trollope party but that won't diminish my enjoyment one bit. Liz, thanks for the background info and cast of characters. I'll be back!

Mar 1, 2013, 7:26pm

I was going to start tonight but I have a (well-earned) reputation of being a fast finisher for GRs and wonder if I'm going to read ahead of what you will post on the threads Liz. maybe I should wait to start. Pondering....

Mar 1, 2013, 7:35pm

Don't worry about that, Bonnie - "at your own pace" means fast as well as slow. I tend to sprint ahead in group reads, too, so I sympathise. :)

At the moment I'm holding off on moving forward because I wasn't sure that any of our participants had actually started. I do plan to go on posting chapter headings and making notes and, hopefully, raising discussion points. I've finished myself so I can do that as quickly or slowly as necessary. If you or anyone else gets to Chapter 17 in a hurry, I will set up the second thread to allow for comments there.

Mar 1, 2013, 7:39pm

OK Liz, well then I may as well start at some point. I'm still thinking about the book I just finished.

Mar 1, 2013, 8:57pm

Read Doctor Thorne last year, but am following along just the same. Love Trollope!

Mar 1, 2013, 10:55pm

I'm still reading Fugitive Prince but will start Dr Thorne as soon as I've finished it. Looking forward to it!

Mar 2, 2013, 6:40am

I read the first couple of chapters last night. I'm juggling a couple of other books at the same time so I'm not planning to get through it quickly.

Mar 2, 2013, 8:01am

Thanks for setting up the thread Liz! I'm here and I've started reading - just got to the end of chapter two although I did have to reread a few passages to check who everyone was. I normally find I start off more slowly and then suddenly speed up later on with Trollope's books.

And I have a question for chapter 2 (for Liz or anyone else who understood this better than I did).

Dr Thorne the younger, says he will look after his brother's illegitimate baby but he wants to keep her antecedents a secret so he tells the baby's uncle that she died and then moves to Greshamsbury. He puts the baby in a separate house of some kind (persumably some kind of wet-nurse is bringing her up) and only old Mr Gresham (I think John Newbold Gresham) knows who she is.

But isn't Dr Thorne going to introduce the girl as his niece once she's old enough? Will everyone in Greshamsbury really have forgotten that his brother never married by this point? Or is Greshamsbury so far removed from the life of Barchester that no one there will know the Thorne's background?

And also, phew, that chapter had a lot in it.

Mar 2, 2013, 11:22am

Marking a spot...

Mar 2, 2013, 12:31pm

>23 brenzi: I just finished Chapter 2 and my head is spinning. The set up Heather refers to is very complicated but I was under the impression that Greshamsbury was a distance from Barsetshire and there was very little interchange between the residents. But I was left wondering too about how he would introduce his niece once she resides with him.

Mar 2, 2013, 3:18pm

Whoa! Hello, Nancy, Jean, Heather and Gail - welcome!

Editado: Mar 8, 2013, 4:00pm

Chapter 2:

In which we learn the history of Mary Thorne

There are a few different things going on here with regards to the keeping of Mary's secret, including one big, overriding aspect of the situation.

The distance between Barchester and Greshamsbury isn't huge, but far enough for people in the latter not to necessarily be familiar with all the ugly details. It is likely (though it is not stated categorically) that Dr Thorne got Mary Scatcherd "out of town" during her pregnancy, somewhere she wasn't known. Then the official story is that the baby died: we know that Roger was told that; others may have been. Then the child was placed to nurse with a farming family, and when old enough sent to boarding school. So there's no hint of her existence for twelve years, and so no real reason for anyone to connect the niece who comes to stay with the scandal.

BUT---and this is the crucial point---Dr Thorne gives this illegitimate child his own name (to which she is not legally entitled); and that more than anything else throws people off (as is spelled out explicitly later in the book). It doesn't occur to anyone that a man with as much family pride as Dr Tjorne would allow a girl with Mary's background to use his name. By definition she could not be that baby.

A lot of this novel is concerned, via Mary's subplot, with the position - or non-position - of illegitimate children at the time. Dr Thorne swears to Mary Scatcherd that he will bring her baby up as his own daughter, and he does, but he also worries that he's done her - Mary Thorne - an injustice. It was the common practice at the time to give illegitimate children of an upper-class background to lower-class families to be brought up as their own, because it was felt there was no place for them in higher society - and particularly girls. An illegitimate boy could make his own way in the world, but an illegitimate girl, though brought up like a lady, was unlikely to find a gentleman willing to marry her.

Mar 2, 2013, 3:38pm

Chapter 2


I'm interested in hearing reaction to the way that the background tragedy is presented - particularly the novel's attitude to the killing of Henry Thorne. That's basically an "honour killing" and is treated as justifiable; the fact that Roger Scatcherd only gets six months indicates that the jury accepts that it was rape. But we know that Roger had every intention of killing his sister too, even though he did believe it was rape - he just didn't get to her first.

I ask too because it resonates across something that happens later in the novel, which picks up the theme of men defending their female relatives through physical violence.

I find myself uncomfortable not just with the ugly story itself (date rape drugs, in the 1830s!) but with the way it is presented - though it's not Trollope's fault. He was not allowed to use the word "rape" or even a euphemism like "assaulted", so he falls back on "seduced" - which makes it sound as if Mary was complicit.

Mar 2, 2013, 4:25pm

There's an interesting choice of wording when Trollope describes Dr. Thorne's reaction to the trial: "it behoved him also, at least so he thought, to look after that poor fallen one whose misfortunes were less merited than those either of his brother or of hers." He doesn't say her misfortunes were unmerited, he says they were less merited. He also describes her as the "poor fallen one". Both of those phrases seem to suggest he assigns some degree of blame to her for her situation. On the other hand, after the baby was born, "the story of her great wrongs and cruel usage was much talked of, and men said that one who had been so injured should be regarded as having in nowise sinned at all." Does Thorne's pride in his family/blood prevent him from seeing his brother as a rapist, contrary to general opinion?

Mar 2, 2013, 4:41pm

I think the implication is that if Mary Scatcherd was being courted by a man of her own class (the man she eventually marries), she shouldn't have been listening to overtures from a "gentleman" like Henry Thorne, who presumably never meant to marry her even if he did say he would. There's certainly a suggestion of blame of her in the wording, but it's hard to be sure whether it's Dr Thorne or Anthony Trollope expressing it. You might be right about Dr Thorne - perhaps in spite of himself - trying to lessen his brother's guilt.

On the other hand, Mary is "fallen" whether she was at fault or not.

Mar 2, 2013, 4:46pm

Yes, I agree it's hard to tell whether it's Thorne or Trollope speaking there.

Mar 3, 2013, 6:34am

#26- 28 I'd completely missed this the first and second times I read through chapter 2 so went back to read it a 3rd time!

I had thought that Mary had been seduced against her better judgement but not perhaps against her will from this chapter. The fact that Mary later claimed she had not accepted the tradesman's offer of marriage at this stage, her feelings for Henry after his death and her attachment to their child make me lean towards it not being rape. But perhaps I'm being influenced too much by Trollope's choice of words.

Mar 3, 2013, 2:19pm

I think the fact that Dr Thorne comes to believe - obviously reluctantly - that she was drugged means that we are to accept it did happen too.

Mary's denial that she was engaged may have been her way of trying to protect the man, or her consciousness that she had not behaved well in allowing Henry's attentions; whereas her brother is trying to show that Henry was pursuing an engaged woman, to demonstrate the extent of the wrong.

Mary's supposed feelings towards Henry Thorne is one of the things that bothers me here. It may mean that she remembers all about his courtship but nothing about the rape, or it may be an example of something that is often found in writing of this time and earlier (men's writing, I need hardly say; women's is much different!), that whatever the circumstances a woman never loses a feeling of affection for her first lover. Apparently that covers rape, too. :(

Editado: Mar 3, 2013, 3:07pm

#31 "whatever the circumstances a woman never loses a feeling of affection for her first lover. Apparently that covers rape, too. :(" Yeah :-( And the best thing to do after you've been raped is to marry the rapist to save your honour...

I was impressed by the willingness of the tradesman to marry Mary despite what had happened to her - that seemed more unusual for the time.

Mar 3, 2013, 4:34pm

Well, no-one else WOULD marry you - and there was a good chance your rapist wouldn't, either; you were still defiled, after all, even if he was the one who'd done the defiling. {*fume*}

Yes, it's admirable that the tradesman is still willing to marry Mary - though not to hold his ground and look his neighbours in the face afterwards. But I guess we can't blame him for that.

(For the record, what you tend to see in women's writing is that a woman can't honourably marry another man if her seducer or rapist is still alive - that she is technically "married" to him already.)

Mar 3, 2013, 7:26pm

>30 souloftherose: #26- 28 I'd completely missed this the first and second times I read through chapter 2 so went back to read it a 3rd time!

I'm glad I wasn't the only one. Even after reading it for the third time, I wasn't thoroughly convinced that it was rape. But when he said that the jury sentenced the man to only 6 months and that the reader probably thought that was too much, (or words to that effect) I have to say it must be rape.

Mar 3, 2013, 7:30pm

Part of the difficulty here is that Trollope is only able to deal with this at all by dealing with it indirectly - the enforced allusive style leaves us with doubts that he possibly didn't mean to create.

But yes, the short jail term, Dr Thorne's reluctant acceptance of Scatcherd's accusation and the willingness of Tomlinson to marry Mary all say it was rape.

Mar 3, 2013, 9:51pm

...but anyway, to lighten the mood a little:

Heather, I hope you appreciate the introduction of the Reverend and Miss Oriel? :)

Mar 3, 2013, 9:57pm

Chapter 3:

In which we get to know Dr Thorne, and Mary Thorne comes home to stay.

He did not talk of these things much; he offended no rank by boasts of his own equality; he did not absolutely tell the Earl de Courcy in words, that the privilege of dining at Courcy Castle was to him to greater than the privilege of dining at Courcy Parsonage; but there was that in his manner that told it.

Not an easy person to get along with, our hero. I'm amused to find him conducting a war with Dr Fillgrave in the press, like Mr Slope and Mr Arabin. :)

Mar 4, 2013, 4:21pm

Since I know some of you have found the opening chapters a bit difficult, perhaps I should say that while the plot requires this complicated back-story, it all moves forward from Chapter 4 onwards.

This kind of opening is unusual in Trollope, who usually prefers to drop the reader in medias res.

Mar 4, 2013, 6:16pm

Hi, Liz and all. I found this novel to be the most difficult of the Barsetshire series to enjoy. But it picks up a lot, as Liz says, after the necessary but maddening backstory is dealt with. Much later in the book--much, much later--I became totally involved with the outcome of the various plot threads.

Editado: Mar 4, 2013, 6:19pm

Thanks for that, Gail. What we might have here is the reason Trollope never again asked anyone else for a plot. :)

Mar 4, 2013, 6:40pm

I'm in the middle of chapter 10 and can attest that it is very engrossing now and I'm really enjoying it.

Mar 4, 2013, 6:48pm

Ooh! I'd better hurry up with my chapter headings! :)

Mar 5, 2013, 1:27pm

I've not read Trollope for some time, and I see I'd forgotten how easy he is to read! And how funny.

Editado: Mar 8, 2013, 4:01pm

Chapter 4:

In which we learn that Frank Gresham must marry money.

    "Frank has but one duty before him. He must marry money. The heir of fourteen thousand a year may indulge himself in looking for blood, as Mr Gresham did, my dear"—it must be understood that there was very little compliment in this, as the Lady Arabella had always conceived herself to be a beauty—"or for beauty, as some men do," continued the countess, thinking of the choice that the present Earl de Courcy had made; "but Frank must marry money. I hope he will understand this early; do make him understand this before he makes a fool of himself..."
    But, alas! alas! Frank Gresham had already made a fool of himself.

This is where the story begins to move forward - and it is also, I think, where Trollope would have started the novel if he hadn't got himself entangled in promises to his brother. This kind of conversational gambit, in which the reader gets to know the various characters through their speech and to extract a version of the prevailing circumstances from the skewed perspectives on display, is much more in Trollope's usual style.

Mar 5, 2013, 5:14pm

That's the passage I've just read...
And just before it the very funny bits on how useful an excuse young ladies' teeth are for getting to spend ten weeks in London!

Mar 5, 2013, 5:15pm

I'm tempted to start counting the number of times that Lady Arabella says, "I never interfere; but---" :)

Mar 5, 2013, 5:20pm

Somewhere above, Liz, I see you say you think Trollope a Tory. Wow. I've never seen him as a Tory. In fact, given the way he lambastes both sides in every novel of his I've read, I've always seen him as feeling separated from either side. More of an independent, as we'd term it today.

I'm also struggling to see the whole date-rape thing. Did I miss a specific reference to where that came from?

Editado: Mar 8, 2013, 4:02pm

One of the attractions of Trollope is that he almost invariably sees both sides of a situation and presents them fairly even-handedly in spite of his own feelings. But I don't think he is "separated", as you say. In The Warden and Barchester Towers he is clearly on the side of the High Church faction, even though he sees their absurdities, and here he is clearly on the side of the landed gentry and the agricultural interest as represented by Mr Gresham (which was almost invariably Tory), though he shows us how Mr Gresham has all but ruined himself and his family. It's no coincidence that the awful de Corcys and the Duke of Omnium are Whigs.

All that said, I think when Trollope sat down to write his truly political novels he was interested in examining the system as a whole and so was careful not to take sides - rather showing us the good and bad men on both sides of the political fence.

I'm also struggling to see the whole date-rape thing.

In Chapter 2 we get these passages:

The brother was at first furious for vengeance against his brother's murderer; but, as the facts came out, as he learnt what had been the provocation given, what had been the feelings of Scatcherd when he left the city, determined to punish him who had ruined his sister, his heart was changed...

Scatcherd accused him openly of having intoxicated her with drugs; and Thomas Thorne, who took up the case, ultimately believed the charge...

The family-proud Dr Thorne would not have believed that against his brother unless he was forced to, and the outcome of the trial shows that the jury believed it too. Dr Thorne also arranged and paid for Roger Scatcherd's legal defence, as well as looking after Mary, which indicates he didn't think either of them ultimately to blame.

A novel of this time couldn't dwell on these matters so it's handled obliquely but I think we're supposed to accept this version of events.

Editado: Mar 5, 2013, 6:57pm

You don't know how glad I am that other people are having trouble with that idea, which, now that I'm much further along in the book, makes perfect sense. But at the time, I missed it completely, even after rereading a couple of times. It wasn't until Liz spelled it out that I could finally accept that that was what it meant.

I just went back to reread your introduction at the top Liz and it makes so much more sense to me now. What a great job you do!

Just as I thought, there's no way I can stop reading at this point and I just finished chapter 15. I think I know what the two secrets are that you talked about in the intro and I think Miss Dunstable to be another of those characters (like the Senora in Barchester Towers) who will be hard to forget. I've just met her so I will have to see how she develops but I can tell she will probably play an important role.

Mar 5, 2013, 6:52pm

Thanks, Bonnie!

Perhaps I should reassure people that Mary's back-story isn't just there to be dramatic, but ties into the novel as a whole both from the point of plot (i.e. Mary has a dark secret) and, much more importantly, of theme: this novel is about love and money in marriage, but is also very much about contemporary concerns like "family" and "birth" and where the real worth of a human being was to be found, whether in their ancestors or in themselves.

I think we might also say that a major theme of this novel is the gap that tends to exist between theory and practice. :)

Mar 5, 2013, 7:09pm

thanks for that clarification, Liz. I didn't get the impression the brother was quite that bad. I just assumed it was the usual clod of a well to do fellow taking advantage of the lower class young woman, not needing much more than a refusal to take no for an answer and zero fear of any legal reprisal to take her.

As for the politics, I suppose being a lover of the Pallisers, I see him as more supportive of the Whig position, especially as it pertains to the reform act. Altho he certainly excoriates the upper classes on both sides of the issue.

Editado: Mar 5, 2013, 7:25pm

I would certainly agree that his viewpoint broadened and even softened as he began to look more closely at the political system when writing his Palliser novels, and that he begins to express a more liberal attitude, but at this stage I don't see much empathy with anyone outside the traditional Tory boundaries.

Mar 5, 2013, 11:02pm

I'm only on chapter 1, but I'm here. Thanks for the helpful background information up top.

Mar 5, 2013, 11:26pm

Thank you for joining us! :)

Editado: Mar 8, 2013, 8:11pm

Chapter 5

In which Frank Gresham takes sides, and shows off his carving skills.

The countess smiled grimly, and shook her head with a decidedly negative shake. Had she said out loud to the young man, "Your father is such an obstinate, pig-headed, ignorant fool, that it is no use speaking to him; it would be wasting fragrance on the desert air," she could not have spoken more plainly. The effect on Frank was this: that he said to himself, speaking quite as plainly as Lady de Courcy had spoken by her shake of the face, "My mother and aunt are always down on the governor, always; but the more they are down on him the more I'll stick to him..."

Of course the irony here is that the Squire actually agrees with the de Courcy faction; it's just that under the circumstances, he hasn't the nerve to say so.

Fun historical factoid:

The Honourable John was not, perhaps, as much accustomed to the ready use of his tongue as was his honourable brother, seeing that it was not his annual business to depict the glories of the farmers' daughters; at any rate, on this occasion he seemed to be at some loss for words; he shut up, as the slang phrase goes...

Well, well, well - 1858. How about that?

Mar 6, 2013, 4:40pm

Bonnie (and anyone else who's ahead of the pack), if there are things you would like to discuss from further on in the novel, let me know and I will set up the second and third threads for you.

Editado: Mar 6, 2013, 7:35pm

>36 lyzard:: I'm a little behind the rest of you, having just finished Chapter 3. I, too, missed the fact that it might have been rape and thought Mary was "seduced" if not completely willingly, then not exactly by force either. And I actually thought Trollope's comment about a six-month sentence was tongue-in-cheek, like of course we would think such a short sentence was ridiculous. So thanks for explaining the subtleties of Victorian language. :)

On to Chapter 4.

Editado: Mar 6, 2013, 8:35pm

I've now read up through chapter 4, but I wanted to note that although the opening chapters are a little slow, I love the fact that Trollope apologizes for this in Chapter 2: I quite feel that an apology is due for beginning a novel with two long dull chapters full of description. And his apology goes on for most of a page. Just in case we were tempted to give up.

Mar 6, 2013, 9:19pm

He always likes to take the opportunity to stop and have a little chat with the reader. :)

Mar 7, 2013, 7:48am

I've always really liked his penchant for chatting with the reader. He's a hoot.

Mar 7, 2013, 5:18pm

Just wanted to apologise for the fact that I haven't really been reading Dr Throne this week :-( Work craziness and tiredness from antibiotics meant I just wasn't taking any of it in but I'm hoping to pick it back up at the weekend (almost the weekend - yay!)

Editado: Mar 7, 2013, 5:33pm

That's interesting, Jean, because he's attracted a lot of criticism over the years for breaking the fourth wall.

Heather, I've had a thoroughly horrible week myself so I can sympathise. Take care of yourself and hopefully things will sort themselves out for you over the weekend - almost the weekend - yay!, indeed.

Editado: Mar 7, 2013, 6:21pm

Well I have been reading this week and all I can say Heather is that you have some good reading ahead of you. I am well over halfway done and I am absolutely loving it. I will definitely be reading my way through Trollope's oeuvre.

His character studies are just so well done. The plotting may be kind of clunky and you can figure out what's probably going to happen way, way in advance but somehow it doesn't matter.

Editado: Mar 8, 2013, 4:04pm

Chapter 6

In which we learn exactly how Frank Gresham made a fool of himself.

    And so the interview had ended. Frank, of course, went upstairs to see if his new pocket-pistols were all ready, properly cleaned, loaded, and capped, should he find, after a few days' experience, that prolonged existence was unendurable.
    However, he managed to live through the subsequent period; doubtless with a view of preventing any disappointment to his father's guests.

Mar 7, 2013, 7:29pm

I laughed out loud when I read that.

Mar 8, 2013, 5:38am

I've finished chapetr 5 in print but I'm easing off now until my audio version catches up.

I, too, love Tollope's tendency to chat to the reader. I don't think it works for all authors - it can come over as a bit coy - but Trollope always pitches it just right for me.

Liz, just one small query - in my edition it's Gresham and Greshamsbury. You use Greshem and Greshemsbury. I would regard the version with an 'a' as more English but I also know that England and English have plenty of variations.

Mar 8, 2013, 10:35am

I'm now in Chapter 6. I don't think I've reached the passage in #64 yet, but what a hoot. I just read a bit where the young ladies wandered out to the garden, followed by the older ladies, followed by the younger men, leaving the older men alone with their wine. I just loved that!

I'm also enjoying Trollope's chats with his readers.

Mar 8, 2013, 3:56pm


That's an interesting point, Kerry - I hadn't noticed, but I do have two different spellings in the two different editions I'm using (depending on where I am). On reflection I agree with you that 'a' is more suitable; I will do a little editing... :)

Editado: Mar 8, 2013, 8:13pm

Chapter 7

In which Mary Thorne begins to ask questions.

"I think that Miss Gresham should not marry Mr Moffat. I think so because her family is high and noble, and because he is low and ignoble. When one has an opinion on such matters, one cannot but apply it to things and people around one; and having applied my opinion to her, the next step naturally is to apply it to myself. Were I Miss Gresham, I would not marry Mr Moffat though he rolled in gold. I know where to rank Miss Gresham. What I want to know is, where I ought to rank myself?"

Modern readers sometimes struggle with the idea that Mary has gone so many years without asking questions about herself, and that Dr Thorne apparently intends never to tell her the truth if he can avoid it. This ties into one of the 19th century's insistence that it was part of a woman's duty never to question her menfolk, even about matters most urgently concerning herself.

It can be argued that Dr Thorne is trying to protect Mary, but even the idea of ignorance being any real protection is hard to swallow.

(I can't remember if any of you here took part in the group read of Wilkie Collins' The Law And the Lady a while back? - but there we have a woman finding out that her husband has married her under an assumed name, and when she asks him why and who he is, he gets offended at her "vulgar curiosity"!)

But we do get this:

"Mary, after what has passed I should be very unjust and very cruel to you not to tell you one thing more than you have now learned. Your mother was unfortunate in much, not in everything; but the world, which is very often stern in such matters, never judged her to have disgraced herself. I tell you this, my child, in order that you may respect her memory..."

...which confirms for us that it was rape.

Whatever we make of Dr Thorne's handling of Mary's situation, the relationship between the two is unusually deep and equitable. As I said earlier, one of the main themes of this novel is the gap between theory and practice: Dr Thorne is as family-proud as anyone could be; yet this girl who by the standards of the day is basically "untouchable" is the light of his life.

I love that he calls her "Minnie". :)

Mar 8, 2013, 7:14pm

I read The Law and the Lady with the group! I hadn't thought about that aspect of Mary's situation. It did seem to take a lot of courage for her to ask her uncle about the questions that were bothering her.

I've read through chapter 15 and I've noticed a couple of references to phrenology so far. I don't remember noticing this in Barchester Towers, or maybe it was there and I just don't remember it.

Mar 8, 2013, 8:05pm

I don't think it was there, but it may have been; it was a common belief at the time, though Trollope only seems to use the word jokingly. On the other hand, he certainly does seem to believe that you could tell a lot about someone's "breeding" and nature from their physical characteristics.

Mar 8, 2013, 10:32pm

I'm behind - just about to start Chapter 5, but I'll catch up when I've finished my Iris Murdoch.

Mar 8, 2013, 11:15pm

You're not behind at all - take your time, and join us when you can. :)

Mar 9, 2013, 6:48am

>69 lyzard:: I just read Chapter 7 last night. Thanks for highlighting the quote confirming it was rape. I love the warmth between Dr. Thorne and Mary.

Mar 9, 2013, 7:46am

I wanted to kick Doctor Thorne when he was hemming and hawing trying to tell Mary where she fit in. No knowing things, and imagining what they mean is nearly always worse than knowing the truth of things. And harder on poor Mary.

Mar 9, 2013, 8:55am

In response to A.T. breaking the "fourth wall": yes, he did receive a lot of criticism for it, completely undeserved imo. Readers of "modern" works will note how often this happens today.

Somewhere A.T. said/wrote that he believed the author and reader should procede with "complete conifidence" in one another. I find that a delightful idea and it's one of the greatest charms of his work--for me. Makes everythiing seem so much more intimate, as though he were directly behind one, telling the story into one's ear.

Mar 9, 2013, 9:08am

#55 The description of Frank's carving skills really made me chuckle particularly this section:

"Beef, Harry?" shouted the young heir to his friend Baker. "Oh! but I see it isn't your turn yet. I beg your pardon, Miss Bateson," and he sent to that lady a pound and a half of excellent meat, cut out with great energy in one slice, about half an inch thick.

I hope the rest of Miss Bateson's meal was better!

#62 Thanks Liz. I did manage to get a bit further with Dr Throne and I'm hoping to have some good reading time this weekend.

#64 I was not very impressed to find Frank flirting with Miss Oriel only a few days later!

#69 I found the conversation you highlighted between Dr and Mary Throne did make what had happened to Mary's mother clearer to me. I really like the relationship the Dr and Mary have with each other.

Hoping to read Ch 8 and beyond over the weekend.

Mar 9, 2013, 9:46am

I know the doctor meant well, but I find myself wondering how comforted I would feel if I were Mary to learn that my mother was raped. Or would Mary have been too sheltered to deduce that fact?

Editado: Mar 9, 2013, 4:01pm

Mary's situation ties into the Victorian insistence upon women's "innocence" and "purity of mind". Obviously a lot of the time women and girls did know things they weren't "supposed to", but were obliged to behave as if they didn't, which at this distance makes it hard to gauge where the boundaries of their knowledge lay.

Dr Thorne's apparent assumption that Mary can (and should) go all her life without knowing the truth about herself shows what kind of a cocoon girls were kept in.

It is difficult to judge whether Mary grasps the full implication of that last comment about her mother. However, since she vaguely knows that her father was Dr Thorne's brother, and now that her mother was "unfortunate" but not "disgraced", it is likely that if she did understand she wouldn't let on, so as not to upset her uncle. We might disagree with this particular approach to the issue, but we certainly don't doubt the deep concern for one another of Mary and Dr Thorne.

It is disturbing, though, that in a perverse way rape is seen as preferable to seduction.

Mar 9, 2013, 4:08pm

Gail, I always enjoy Trollope's implication that he is merely telling a story he happened to observe, and therefore isn't responsible for what the characters do. :)

Heather, there is a constant suggestion through the novels of the distance in attitude towards love of men and women - that for men it's just one of their concerns, while for women it's "all-in-all"; which was possibly true in light of the narrowness of women's lives, but is also something that becomes increasingly exasperating over the novels as the men get less and less deserving of devotion. Frank at least we can excuse on the basis of his age and because he does eventually grow up. With most of Trollope's "heroes" (using the term very loosely), there is little excuse for the selfishness of their conduct.

Mar 9, 2013, 4:15pm

Chapter 8

In which Mary recognises the gap between theory and practice.

She said to herself, proudly, that God's handiwork was the inner man, the inner woman, the naked creature animated by a living soul; that all other adjuncts were but man's clothing for the creature; all others, whether stitched by tailors or contrived by kings. Was it not within her capacity to do as nobly, to love as truly, to worship her God in heaven with as perfect a faith, and her god on earth with as leal a troth, as though blood had descended to her purely through scores of purely born progenitors? So to herself she spoke; and yet, as she said it, she knew that were she a man, such a man as the heir of Greshamsbury should be, nothing would tempt her to sully her children's blood by mating herself with any one that was base born. She felt that were she an Augusta Gresham, no Mr Moffat, let his wealth be what it might, should win her hand unless he too could tell of family honours and a line of ancestors.

I think that paragraph spells out the novel's theme as well as anything; though we might be inclined to shift emphasis from its second half to its first half.

By the way, if anyone is put off by Dr Thorne's snobbish attitude towards Mr Moffat, I heartily recommend that you take a look at Trollope's stand-alone novel, Lady Anna, which...has a slightly different perspective. :)

Mar 9, 2013, 4:37pm

Dr Thorne's snobbish attitude towards Mr Moffat

Correct me if I'm wrong Liz, but isn't Trollope merely reflecting the attitudes of society in general at the time. Weren't these generally accepted opinions of the upper classes as they looked down their noses at the masses?

Editado: Mar 9, 2013, 5:07pm

I think the suggestion here, though, is that society is right: there is clear criticism intended of the Duke of Omnium and the de Courcys for raising a tailor's son "above his station", and clear authorial approval of the attitudes of the Greshamsbury faction.

However, as Jean pointed out earlier, in Trollope's later novels we often find him attacking, or at least questioning, attitudes like this rather than tacitly agreeing with them. We might view his ambivalence about Mary's "standing" and the issue of worth vs birth as the beginning of this, even though on the whole (through its handling of Moffat and the Scatcherds) the novel insists that only trouble can come from low-born people trying to rise above their class.

Mar 9, 2013, 7:15pm

In Chapter 7, when Mary begins to ask difficult questions about her rank in society, she makes the doctor wonder if he has done right. What if by endeavoring to place her in the position of a lady, he had falsely so placed her, and robbed her of all legitimate position? What if there was no rank of life to which she could now properly attach herself? This made me think a little of Harriet Smith in Emma, where Emma seems intent on raising Harriet above her proper station in life, making her a suitable match for no one. It is hard to see, at this point in the story, what marriage prospects Mary would have. Although I begin to see where the story is heading...

I'm sailing along now and am fairly far ahead, but I've enjoyed the occasional reference to familiar characters and places--Dr. Fillgrave's visit to Plumstead, an appearance by Bishop and Mrs. Proudie, and news of Dr. Stanhope.

Mar 9, 2013, 7:34pm

This made me think a little of Harriet Smith in Emma, where Emma seems intent on raising Harriet above her proper station in life, making her a suitable match for no one.

I had the same thought! Wilkie Collins' No Name also deals with a similar issue.

Editado: Mar 9, 2013, 8:04pm

Yes, you're both exactly right: the illegitimate Harriet is "placed" within a farming community in the first instance because she has a hope of finding a husband among that class; Emma's meddling could well have left her without anywhere to go - which is also what Dr Thorne fears he has done to Mary. Curious how much more criticism Emma seems to attract, though. :)

This was a situation that hurt girls much more than boys, because boys could make their own way in the world, while girls were stuck wherever fate (and their unacknowledged relatives) left them.

As I mentioned with respect to The Warden and Barchester Towers, Trollope basically invented the "series" in the modern sense; it seems that he also invented the call-back!

Mar 10, 2013, 6:48am

Oh I like the comparison with Harriet Smith! I feel rather sad for Mary at the moment.

My reading pace is about on track with this thread; I read through Ch 9 yesterday. I'm happy to see some familiar characters and places will be making an appearance! Thorne's world feels very familiar and yet I haven't run into anyone I know yet.

Mar 10, 2013, 10:58am

I actually wish there had been more of some of the characters from the first two books:(

Editado: Mar 10, 2013, 6:05pm

And yet he was criticised for bringing those characters back at all - novelists were supposed to invent new characters each time, not trot out the same ones over and over.

My, haven't things changed? :)

I know you've done what I usually do in a group read situation, Bonnie, and dashed ahead to the finishing line. I hope you'll continue to drop in and chat, though!

Laura, it's more whether I can keep this thread on track with most people's reading - do let me know if I need to speed up or down, everyone!

Mar 10, 2013, 6:04pm

Chapter 9

In which we learn of a very strange friendship.

    Scatcherd had but one friend in the world. And, indeed, this friend was no friend in the ordinary acceptance of the word. He neither ate with him nor drank with him, nor even frequently talked with him. Their pursuits in life were wide asunder. Their tastes were all different. The society in which each moved very seldom came together. Scatcherd had nothing in unison with this solitary friend; but he trusted him, and he trusted no other living creature on God's earth.
    He trusted this man; but even him he did not trust thoroughly; not at least as one friend should trust another. He believed that this man would not rob him; would probably not lie to him; would not endeavour to make money of him; would not count him up or speculate on him, and make out a balance of profit and loss; and, therefore, he determined to use him. But he put no trust whatever in his friend's counsel, in his modes of thought; none in his theory, and none in his practice. He disliked his friend's counsel, and, in fact, disliked his society, for his friend was somewhat apt to speak to him in a manner approaching to severity...

Mar 10, 2013, 6:04pm

I'm a bit ahead, now on chapter 13. And yes, the comparison with Harriet is so strong! Even moreso for the next few chapters.

I personally was giggling at the mention of Omnium.

Mar 10, 2013, 7:12pm

Scatcherd is quite a mess. Managed to make something of himself and undoes it all with self destriuctive behavior. And the nerve, wanting a second or third opinion on the health effects of drinking like a fish!

Editado: Mar 10, 2013, 7:56pm

At least his self-destructive behaviour isn't directly linked to his social elevation; we know what kind of a drinker he was even in the early days.

By the way, I did mean to point this out:

Sir Roger having been declared contractor for cutting a canal from sea to sea, through the Isthmus of Panama, had been making a week of it; and the result was that Lady Scatcherd had written rather peremptorily to her husband's medical friend...

...which just goes to show how long that thing was mooted and talked about and tried and failed, before they figured out how to do it (work began in 1881, twenty-three years after the publication of Dr Thorne, and after a series of disasters and changes of management, wasn't completed until 1914). It's quite possible that Trollope was joking by using this as an example of Sir Roger's abilities, citing it as the most unlikely engineering project he could think of.

Editado: Mar 11, 2013, 7:24pm

Chapter 10

In which Dr Thorne begins to wish he spoke legalese.

    "But the bulk of the property—this estate of Boxall Hill, and the Greshamsbury mortgage, and those other mortgages—I have tied up in this way: they shall be all his at twenty-five; and up to that age it shall be in your power to give him what he wants. If he shall die without children before he shall be twenty-five years of age, they are all to go to Mary's eldest child."
    "Mary's eldest child!" said the doctor, feeling that the perspiration had nearly broken out on his forehead...


Trollope's examination of Dr Thorne's feelings about this situation is one of his classic dissections of mixed motives.

On the other hand, I find this disingenuous almost to the point of being dishonest:

Yes; he was christened Louis Philippe, after the King of the French. If one wishes to look out in the world for royal nomenclature, to find children who have been christened after kings and queens, or the uncles and aunts of kings and queens, the search should be made in the families of democrats. None have so servile a deference for the very nail-parings of royalty; none feel so wondering an awe at the exaltation of a crowned head; none are so anxious to secure themselves some shred or fragment that has been consecrated by the royal touch. It is the distance which they feel to exist between themselves and the throne which makes them covet the crumbs of majesty, the odds and ends and chance splinters of royalty.

What this particular sneer chooses to ignore is the implications of that opening phrase, "King of the French" - as opposed to "King of France" - Louis Philippe adopted that title as a declaration that he held the throne by the will of the people, not by right; he was often called "the Citizen King". Scatcherd naming his son for him is in recognition of this instance of "power to the people", not the kind of secret cringing royalism implied. Otherwise, why would he not have called his son William, after the then-King of England?

It may need to be clarified that the word "democrat" - small-d - means that Scatcherd is in favour of removal of class distinctions / barriers and in particular the abolition of aristocratic privilege.

However, the real evidence of Scatcherd's radicalism lies elsewhere:

    "But do you mean a boy or a girl?"
    "They may be all girls for what I know, or all boys; besides, I don't care which it is. A girl would probably do best with it."

Interesting to compare that with the widely expressed conviction that Eleanor was unfit to control her own income in Barchester Towers.

Mar 11, 2013, 5:02pm

I cheered (silently in my head rather than out loud because I was on the train) when the Bishop and Mrs Proudie made their reappearance! And Ch16 Miss Dunstable was one of my favourites - I think Miss Dunstable herself might become a favourite too.

I always find with Trollope that it takes me a while to go from liking to loving one of his books but I think that was the point it happened with this book.

Mar 11, 2013, 5:06pm

#94 "Mary's eldest child!" said the doctor, feeling that the perspiration had nearly broken out on his forehead...

This was an uh-oh moment for me too. Poor Dr Throne.

Mar 11, 2013, 7:27pm

I agree, Heather: they are books that tend to creep up on you rather than blow you away at first glance. But it's real love rather than mere infatuation. :)

Since I see that you are now well ahead of the thread, can I ask the general question, Where is everyone up to? Do I need to speed things up?

Mar 11, 2013, 8:00pm

I finished chapter 31 earlier this evening. My goal has been 25 pages a day, but I'm at a point now that I don't want to stop after just 25 pages.

Mar 11, 2013, 8:06pm

I'm at chapter 13, I think - election time in Barchester, anyway.

Mar 11, 2013, 8:10pm

Well I finished and REVIEWED the book w/o giving anything away I think. I mean how could I when Trollope does it all himself? That's my view anyway. Anyway, I'm in love now (even though it did take a little while to warm up to this one, as Liz says)with one tiny quibble that I will post about when everyone is further along.

Mar 11, 2013, 8:28pm

I'm about to start Chapter 31. I'm listening to this and I seem to have had a lot of time in the car lately. I could slow myself down by switching back to Les Miserables for a while, but I'm finding I want to press on.

Mar 11, 2013, 8:33pm

Okay - consensus seems to be that I should SPEED THE HECK UP.

Duly noted. :)

Mar 11, 2013, 8:34pm

I think there are others who are not so far ahead - let's see who else gives a status update...

Mar 11, 2013, 8:43pm

I've slowed down to stay with the group. I'm on Chapter 14 I think.

Mar 12, 2013, 3:22am

I'm a bit behind as my audio version is going slower than I'd expected. I'm just about to start Chapter 9. However I have a snow day today - in the middle of March! - so I may move on a bit faster today.

Editado: Mar 12, 2013, 7:24am

I'm half way through now, and really enjoying it. This is a reread for me but it was many years ago I first read it, and so much of it I have forgotten since. I remember Miss Dunstable as being quite old! I myself was only about as old then as Frank Gresham so I shared his perspective perhaps! I do remember liking her very much first time, however old she was; I appreciate her even more this time.

I loved the description of dinner at Gatherum Castle, and Frank's reaction to it, which made me appreciate his qualities more.

I also love the descriptive names of many minor characters; sometimes I don't notice the meaning at first. It was only when the apothecary Bolus was introduced (an item which an apothecary might prescribe) that I then noticed Dr Fillgrave's name properly and realised that it gives a clue that he may not be the safest pair of medical hands! I did spot the names of the two parliamentary agents, sailing close to the wind or closer still in keeping their candidates on the right side of corruption and bribery.

Mar 12, 2013, 11:09am

Genny, I hadn't even noticed the pun in Dr. Fillgrave's name until you pointed it out. I suppose that's only natural. My primary care physician's surname is Payne and it took me several years to spot the irony in that!

Mar 12, 2013, 11:18am

I do love names in all their weirdness, so especially as a Dickens lover, I'm almost always attuned to characters' names. It's a chancy business, it seems to me. I guess the 19th century didn't worry about being too cute.
That said, I'm really lagging behind and don't know exactly why --- well, I do. I'm flipping pages in a C.J. Cherryh scifi that I have to finish before I can devote myself to anything else, not that I can read anything exclusively. Anyway, speed up. I'll enjoy the thread as I get along and bother Liz if I need to. (Thank you, Liz.) (I'm just about to start Chapter VIII.)

Mar 12, 2013, 11:25am

Spot on about Trollope being a long-lasting love rather than a hasty infatuation. Honestly, his are some of the few works I don't mind reading over and over. Well, there's Christie of course, one or two Dickens, some other Victorians and a few Edwardians...goodness. I guess I like to re-read more than I realized.

Mar 12, 2013, 12:38pm

Spot on about Trollope being a long-lasting love rather than a hasty infatuation. Honestly, his are some of the few works I don't mind reading over and over. I'll second (or third) that!

Mar 12, 2013, 5:59pm

Well, perhaps I'll compromise by speeding up just a bit - two chapters a days?

Can I ask if people, particularly those speeding ahead, are finding this an easy read? I've always considered Trollope the most accessible of the Victorian novelists, but that might just be my familiarity with him.

Editado: Mar 12, 2013, 6:08pm

Chapter 11

In which Mary Thorne declines a French bonnet.

    "I should be a happier man if you were provided for as is Miss Oriel. Suppose, now, I could give you up to a rich man who would be able to insure you against all wants?"
    "Insure me against all wants! Oh, that would be a man. That would be selling me, wouldn't it, uncle? Yes, selling me; and the price you would receive would be freedom from future apprehensions as regards me. It would be a cowardly sale for you to make; and then, as to me—me the victim. No, uncle; you must bear the misery of having to provide for me—bonnets and all. We are in the same boat, and you shan't turn me overboard."
    "But if I were to die, what would you do then?"
    "And if I were to die, what would you do? People must be bound together. They must depend on each other. Of course, misfortunes may come; but it is cowardly to be afraid of them beforehand. You and I are bound together, uncle; and though you say these things to tease me, I know you do not wish to get rid of me."

Thinking about Bonnie's excellent review of Dr Thorne and Trollope's habit of giving away his secrets, it seems to me that this works because it shifts the emphasis of his story from usual to less-trodden paths

Instead of producing a rabbit out of a hat at the end as many novelists would do, Trollope shows us the rabbit early on and then makes his story as much about Dr Thorne's responsibilities and temptations as it is about the more traditional concerns of novelists.

In particular we get these introspective scenes in which Dr Thorne suddenly begins to wonder whether his generosity hasn't actually been selfishness all along; if he hasn't done the most harm where he meant to do the most good.

Mar 12, 2013, 6:14pm

Genny, I also missed the Fillgrave pun but now I'm chuckling every time I hear it.

Actually I find myself chuckling quite a lot while reading this-between hilarious scenes and sly asides Trollope is really very funny.

In answer to your question Liz I'm not finding this a difficult read. Clearly I am speeding along and I only have a question or two that ill bring up later.

Mar 12, 2013, 6:22pm

Thank you Liz but I am infatuated with Trollope much more than Dickens (sorry, Peggy). I don't know how long I will be able to wait to read the next one (although wait I will if there will be a GR and I will have a different strategy next time too). Is he known to always have a happy ending? I must say that usually I prefer the dark, dark narrative, the darker the better so I can't explain why Trollope, with all his sugar and spice, appeals to me so much. It's mind boggling.

I also noticed when I posted my review that one of the other reviewers mentioned that this book is somewhat of an outlier to the others in the Chronicles of Barsetshire. Would you characterize it that way?

Editado: Mar 12, 2013, 6:32pm

I find them very different novelists for very different moods.

No, Trollope does not always have happy endings; we're in his comedy phase at the moment so you tend to get an aspect of "happy ever after" but some of his novels are very bleak indeed. Even some of the later Barsetshire novels contain darker material than we are now dealing with, particularly The Last Chronicle Of Barset.

I think it's more the abrupt break between Barchester Towers and Dr Thorne that makes it seem so, perhaps in conjunction with the scarcity of "old faces". Both Framley Parsonage and The Small House At Allington have a lot of new material, too, but they also overlap a bit more with the pre-established world.

Mar 12, 2013, 8:33pm

Liz, I'm one of the slower ones here, only on Chapter 11, because I'm reading a few things concurrently. I'm fine with you speeding up -- I tend to read the thread up to where I am in the book, and then I "mark as read to here" and return later.

Just a thought: with 49 chapters it might be helpful to break the book up into chunks, and have one thread for each chunk, so that those who are moving faster can discuss the later chapters.

Mar 12, 2013, 8:40pm

Yes, I was going to do that in the first place, only then I thought that everyone was way behind me...

...until it turned out they were all way ahead of me. :)

Editado: Mar 13, 2013, 6:30am

Chapter 12

In which Dr Fillgrave declines a five pound fee.

    Then Lady Scatcherd bethought her of her great panacea. "It isn't about the money, you know, doctor," said she; "of course Sir Roger don't expect you to come here with post-horses for nothing." In this, by the by, Lady Scatcherd did not stick quite close to veracity, for Sir Roger, had he known it, would by no means have assented to any payment; and the note which her ladyship held in her hand was taken from her own private purse. "It ain't at all about the money, doctor;" and then she tendered the bank-note, which she thought would immediately make all things smooth.
    Now Dr Fillgrave dearly loved a five-pound fee. What physician is so unnatural as not to love it? He dearly loved a five-pound fee; but he loved his dignity better. He was angry also; and like all angry men, he loved his grievance. He felt that he had been badly treated; but if he took the money he would throw away his right to indulge in any such feeling. At that moment his outraged dignity and his cherished anger were worth more than a five-pound note. He looked at it with wishful but still averted eyes, and then sternly refused the tender.

That's one upset individual... :)

Mar 13, 2013, 8:09am

Yes, the good doctor certainly got his knickers in a twist, didn't he? But then Roger is being a royal pain in the a**.

Mar 13, 2013, 4:01pm

Ch 12 really made me chuckle :-)

I think I'm finding this a fairly easy read, certainly easy compared to the first two books!

Mar 13, 2013, 5:23pm

Yes, he is, Laura; but poor Lady Scatcherd!

That was my memory of it, Heather, which is why I suggested a group read rather than a tutored read. Glad I got that right!

Mar 13, 2013, 5:37pm

Chaper 13

In which Dr Thorne is forced to reveal a secret.

    "What do you call her, doctor?"
    "Her name is Mary."
    "The prettiest women's name going; there's no name like it," said the contractor, with an unusual tenderness in his voice. "Mary—yes; but Mary what? What other name does she go by?"
    Here the doctor hesitated.
    "Mary Scatcherd—eh?"
    "No. Not Mary Scatcherd."
    "Not Mary Scatcherd! Mary what, then? You, with your d–––– pride, wouldn't let her be called Mary Thorne, I know."

Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

I'm interested in how Trollope uses Roger Scatcherd in this chapter. It's an instance of his fairness that having shown us Scatcherd at his worst in the preceding chapters, he now shows that he does have a better nature; that in some respects his ideas are superior to those expressed by the "nice" people of the novel.

    He had twitted the doctor with his pride; had said that it was impossible that the girl should be called Mary Thorne. What if she were so called? What if she were now warming herself at the doctor's hearth?
    "Well, come, Thorne, what is it you call her? Tell it out, man. And, look you, if it's your name she bears, I shall think more of you, a deal more than ever I did yet. Come, Thorne, I'm her uncle too. I have a right to know. She is Mary Thorne, isn't she?"

Of course it's also about how far Dr Thorne has strayed from the path of convention in his adoption of Mary.

    "She lives with me, and belongs to me, and is as my daughter."

And then we find Trollope basically putting the theme of the novel into Scatcherd's mouth; probably because he's uncouth enough to say it outright, instead of dancing around the point as our friends at Greshamsbury might do:

    "I never knew any one yet who was ashamed of a rich connexion. How do you mean to get a husband for her, eh?"

Mar 13, 2013, 6:31pm

How do you mean to get a husband for her, eh?"

The fact that Scatcherd thought of this immediately and Dr Thorne hadn't thought of it at all (apparently) is interesting.

Mar 13, 2013, 7:00pm

Maybe this is a good time to mention one point that's been bothering me. I know Dr. Thorne told the Scatcherds that Mary's baby died. However, it seems like some of the "old-timers" in the county would have figured out exactly who Mary is by now despite the doctor's original claim that the baby died.

Editado: Mar 13, 2013, 7:14pm

We touched on this earlier - the cover story that the baby had died, the move away from Barchester, Mary's upbringing away from home for so many years, and above all that she *is* called Mary Thorne combined to disguise her origins: the very fact that Dr Thorne gives her his name argues against her being who she is, a kind of hiding in plain sight. (And again, Scatcherd puts into blunt words what most people only think.)

The convention that no gentleman would raise a child like that as part of his own household was so established that it hardly occurred to anyone that the family-proud Dr Thorne, of all people, would be the one to break it. It just wasn't done, to coin a phrase. :)

But it is mentioned that some people did have their suspicions. Of course, it's also mentioned that the dominant rumour is that Mary is the doctor's own illegitimate daughter; that seems to be what the de Courcys believe.

Mar 13, 2013, 7:34pm

Having lived in small communities all my life and knowing how hard it is to keep anything completely secret, I still have a hard time buying that the doctor's cover story would have fooled everyone. There are things that aren't talked about by unspoken agreement, but they're still remembered even though they're not spoken of.

Mar 13, 2013, 8:15pm

126: I agree with the sentiment that small town secrets seldom exist, but the Victorians were awfully good at closing their eyes and saying 'la la la la I'm not listening, I'm not looking la la la". Especially when the thing might make them doubt their belief in their own superior morality.

Mar 13, 2013, 8:27pm

I don't know... Mary Scatcherd is got "out of town" to have her baby. Word is the child dies; she emigrates - and twelve years later Dr Thorne brings home a niece bearing his own surname. I'm not sure that would have been everyone's first thought, particularly in a community separate from the one in which the original events took place, and also in a society where keeping up connections with second and third cousins was commonplace, and terms like "uncle" were often used as a courtesy.

But as the text says, there certainly were people with suspicions.

Mar 13, 2013, 8:46pm

Except chapter 2 says the trial was the talk of the county, which would seem to mean that it was talked of beyond Barchester. It's said to be how Dr. Thorne came to the notice of the present squire's father and ended up with his practice in Greshamsbury. And the doctor only had the one brother, and neither of them were married. It seems reasonable that those with long memories would put two and two together but keep their suspicions quiet. However, the doctor seems very naive in thinking that his secret is well-hidden. It didn't take Sir Roger very long to figure it out once he started asking questions.

Mar 13, 2013, 9:05pm

Nothing in this respect occurs to Sir Roger until after Thorne tells him that Mary's child did not die, though, and even then it takes Thorne's odd behaviour to put the truth into his head.

I think it's likely that class and gender barriers come into play here: the nature of the trial was such that "ladies" probably would have been protected from the details. It's only the women of Greshamsbury who take note when Dr Thorne brings Mary home; the question is whether they knew enough of the original circumstances to guess the truth.

But yes, certainly, as you say - It seems reasonable that those with long memories would put two and two together but keep their suspicions quiet.

Editado: Mar 14, 2013, 6:01am

Chapter 14

In which Lady Arabella bites off more than she can chew, and Dr Thorne draws a line in the sand.

    "We have done what little we could to be pleasant neighbours, and I think you'll believe me when I say that I am a true friend to you and dear Mary—"
    The doctor knew that something very unpleasant was coming...


    "Yes, doctor; he must marry money."
    "And worth, Lady Arabella; and a pure feminine heart; and youth and beauty. I hope he will marry them all."
    Could it be possible, that in speaking of a pure feminine heart, and youth and beauty, and such like gewgaws, the doctor was thinking of his niece?


This, the doctor could not stand. No, not for Greshamsbury and its heir; not for the squire and all his misfortunes; not for Lady Arabella and the blood of all the de Courcys could he stand quiet and hear Mary thus accused. He sprang up another foot in height, and expanded equally in width as he flung back the insinuation...


"Allurements!" almost shouted the doctor, and, as he did so, Lady Arabella stepped back a pace or two, retreating from the fire which shot out of his eyes...


    "Very well!" thundered out the doctor. "Her visits to Greshamsbury shall be discontinued."
    "Of course, doctor, this won't change the intercourse between us; between you and the family."
    "Not change it!" said he. "Do you think that I will break bread in a house from whence she has been ignominiously banished? Do you think that I can sit down in friendship with those who have spoken of her as you have now spoken?"


    "My darling!" he said, almost convulsively. "My best own, truest darling!" and Mary, looking up into his face, saw that big tears were running down his cheeks.
    But still he told her nothing that night...

Mar 14, 2013, 8:28am

I'm willing to suspend disbelief as concerns people figuring out Mary's cover story. I can see it both ways and have just decided not to worry about it. Last night I met Miss Dunstable -- a delightful character!

Mar 14, 2013, 10:21am

... and mammon, in her person, was receiving worship from the temporalities and spiritualities of the land.


Mar 14, 2013, 5:28pm

Chapter 15

In which we meet some old friends.

The next arrival was that of the Bishop of Barchester; a meek, good, worthy man, much attached to his wife, and somewhat addicted to his ease. She, apparently, was made in a different mould, and by her energy and diligence atoned for any want in those qualities which might be observed in the bishop himself. When asked his opinion, his lordship would generally reply by saying—"Mrs Proudie and I think so and so." But before that opinion was given, Mrs Proudie would take up the tale, and she, in her more concise manner, was not wont to quote the bishop as having at all assisted in the consideration of the subject. It was well known in Barsetshire that no married pair consorted more closely or more tenderly together; and the example of such conjugal affection among persons in the upper classes is worth mentioning, as it is believed by those below them, and too often with truth, that the sweet bliss of connubial reciprocity is not so common as it should be among the magnates of the earth.

Mar 14, 2013, 6:29pm

I was thinking we were making too much of why the people didn't question Mary's birth too. It's fiction after all and just about anything goes in fiction. At least from my POV. I think I may not be a deep enough thinker.

Yay for an appearance by the Proudies and I guess Trollope has his tongue firmly in cheek with that description of the connubial bliss. LOL

Editado: Mar 14, 2013, 6:46pm

I think it's a valid point of discussion, since so much of the plot turns upon it. I'm a stickler for internal logic, myself, so I can certainly appreciate Carrie's reservations. :)

Tongue in cheek, yes, but perhaps also pointing out that no-one can really know what goes on in a marriage but the parties to it.

Mar 15, 2013, 5:27pm

Chapter 16

In which we are introduced to Miss Martha Dunstable.

    "All the way from Rome to Paris!" said Mrs Proudie—in a tone of astonishment, meant to flatter the heiress—"and what made you in such a hurry?"
    "Something about money matters," said Miss Dunstable, speaking rather louder than usual. "Something to do with the ointment. I was selling the business just then."
    Mrs Proudie bowed, and immediately changed the conversation. "Idolatry is, I believe, more rampant than ever in Rome," said she; "and I fear there is no such thing at all as Sabbath observance."
    "Oh, not in the least," said Miss Dunstable, with rather a joyous air; "Sundays and week-days are all the same there."
    "How very frightful!" said Mrs Proudie.
    "But it's a delicious place. I do like Rome, I must say. And as for the Pope, if he wasn't quite so fat he would be the nicest old fellow in the world. Have you been in Rome, Mrs Proudie?"
    Mrs Proudie sighed as she replied in the negative, and declared her belief that danger was to be apprehended from such visits.
    "Oh!—ah!—the malaria—of course—yes; if you go at the wrong time; but nobody is such a fool as that now."

Since Miss Dunstable is one of only three people to get the better of Mrs Proudie over the entire course of her life, I think we should all stop and pay due homage to her. :)

Mar 15, 2013, 5:36pm

I'm almost caught up with Liz's posting - needing to read only chapters 15 and 16. I may leave them until tomorrow.
I'm with Carrie in thinking that even in Victorian England, people would have a pretty good idea whose daughter Mary might be.....or at least, the truth would be right up there with her being Dr. Thorne's own illegitimate daughter. I truly doubt that a Victorian husband would have "protected" his wife from the knowledge of the trial in their own private discussions. Could be wrong, but human nature loves a good gossip - the juicier the better.

Mar 15, 2013, 5:48pm

In a case with such very sordid details, I'd be inclined to think there would be a strong impulse towards "protection" of the female. (Perversely, rape was always something women weren't supposed to know anything about!?)

The critical ignorance, if I can call it that, is Lady Arabella's, and since at the time she was pregnant with Frank, it's easy enough to believe that she was shielded from all "unpleasantness". These days she's clearly getting her (mis)information from the de Courcys. :)

Mar 15, 2013, 5:52pm

Please note, for those of you who are ahead in your reading, I have set up two more threads for discussion of Chapters 17 - 32 and Chapters 33-47.

Feel free to bring up points of discussion or ask questions relating to those chapters, but please do mark the chapter in question in bold.

Mar 16, 2013, 7:31am

#134 I cheered when the Proudies showed up (I should stress - only in my head).

#137 I think Miss Dunstable is now one of my favourite characters. Her response to Mrs Proudie about Rome was hilarious :-)

Mar 16, 2013, 11:49am

Chapter 16
Have I read this too spottily to remember, or is Trollope alluding to some current event when he writes that Miss Dunstable's boxes are "...some of them nearly as rich as that wonderful box which was stolen a short time since from the top of a cab"?

Mar 16, 2013, 4:36pm

Only in your head!? Piker! :)

No, Peggy, I think that must be a reference to a recent real-life incident.

Abr 28, 2013, 2:55pm

I know you've all left already, but I have finally started reading Dr Thorne and am LOVING it. It's just what I'm in the mood for - it's the last week of school holidays and I have had a bit of time to get through a few chapters a day. I'm still only in Chapter 6.

Thanks everyone for your postings here, especially Liz. I've read up to where I think you start talking about Ch 7 onwards and will be back here lots. I totally missed that Henry raped her - I think the "seduced" fooled me.

#141 Heather, the Proudies are going to appear?! Excellent!

Abr 28, 2013, 3:58pm

* waves to Cushla *
So glad you're enjoying it!! It would be great if you could join us for Framley Parsonage in June, but will school be back in session then?

Abr 28, 2013, 4:39pm

#144 We're still here :-). Really pleased to hear you're enjoying it so far.

Abr 28, 2013, 5:18pm

School's back next week but I am optimistic. One week of holidays left, and the next term is only ten weeks not twelve.
We're about to drive home from our holiday (8 hours today and tomorrow) and I am hoping to get a bit more read along the way. Miss Dunstable has been mentioned but not yet appeared...

Jun 5, 2017, 3:39pm


Mayo 13, 2018, 1:12pm

bumped for easy access as I finally tackle this one.

Mayo 13, 2018, 1:29pm

Yay Julia!

Mayo 13, 2018, 6:55pm