Monday, 3 August 1998

Anthony Trollope: The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867)

Edition: Everyman, 1993
Review number: 95

The final novel of the popular Barset series contains one of Trollope's strongest characters, as well as affectionate farewells to many of those readers have come to know in earlier novels. The major character is Mr Crawley, who is a minor character in Framley Parsonage; he is the extremely poor and inflexible curate who points Mr Robarts on the right way.

In The Last Chronicle, Mr Crawley is accused of stealing when a cheque belonging to the Duke of Omnium, dropped by the Duke's steward during or after a visit to Mr Crawley, is cashed by a tradesman to whom Mr Crawley owes money at his bank.

Mr Crawley is unable to account for the money, and so is brought before the magistrates and committed for trial. The scandal this creates brings down upon him the redoubtable anger of Mrs Proudie, the bishop's wife.

The important thing about Mr Crawley, which makes him by far the most interesting character in the novel sequence, is that he has a tendency toward madness, which starts small - his absent-mindedness about money which makes it impossible to remember where the cheque came from - and grows, tormenting him and his family and friends. In the opinion of the introduction to this edition, he grows almost to the stature of a Lear under the strain; that is perhaps a little exaggerated, but he is such a centre of interest that the chapters dealing with the continuing resolution of the "love story" at the centre of The Small House at Allington are read with impatience to get back to the main interest.

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