One summer evening in 1852 Anthony Trollope found himself in the cathedral city of Salisbury on post office business. He stood for some time on Harnham Bridge looking at the distant spire of the cathedral and there he conceived the idea of writing novels about clergymen, showing them not so much in their clerical roles, but as ordinary men, as beset by greed, ambitions, lust and envy as other men.
As a result of that evening walk he created ‘Barchester’ in the west of England, an amalgam of Salisbury, Exeter and Winchester, and he wrote the six novels of his Barsetshire series: The Warden, Barchester Towers, Dr Thorne, Framley Parsonage, The Small House at Allington and The Last Chronicle of Barset.
“Trollope kills me, kills me with his excellence.” – Leo Tolstoy
I, for one, am incredibly grateful that Trollope did stand on Harnham Bridge on that memorable evening. I adore his novels and have made my way through every one of them with pleasure. But Dr Thorne is my favourite.
If you have never read one of his books before, I hope you like this introduction and will become an addict like me. If you have read some, but not this one, I have great pleasure in introducing you to my personal favourite. And if you have read it before, well Trollope bears many a re-reading, so have fun all over again. And if you have received this reader’s guide but have not yet read the novel, then do consider getting it on unabridged audio, read by Timothy West who has won major audio awards for his readings of all the Barchester and Palliser novels. Honestly, you will get one of the great reading pleasures of life if you listen to his utterly fabulous reading of Dr Thorne.
Dr Thorne was Trollope’s seventh novel and the third to be set in the imaginary county of Barsetshire. It was published in three volumes by Chapman and Hall in June 1858. Trollope began writing it on 20 October 1857 and finished the book on 31 March 1858. A large chunk of the book was written while he was on a postal mission in Egypt. The manuscript of the novel has not survived.
Contemporary reviewers of the novel were very favourable. Trollope was praised for his “healthy and sturdy” realism and for his “real insight into human character and into the complexities of human motives”. During his lifetime it was reprinted more than any of his other novels and has remained one of his most popular works. Interestingly Trollope himself was not the book’s biggest fan.
I have great pleasure in introducing you to my personal Trollope favourite. And if you have read it before, well Trollope bears many a re-reading, so have fun all over again. Learn more about Trollope’s life and writing, the themes, styles and characters in the book, and perhaps enjoy sharing discussion questions with your book group – or even here with me. My Reader’s Guide has all this and more about this entertaining novel. I always love to hear what you think.
This novel has a fabulous range of female characters, from Lady Arabella to Miss Dunstable, Augusta Gresham, to Janet the maid and Lady Scatcherd. Which were your other favourite women in the novel? Have you seen the film version? Do you feel it did justice to the book? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Here are some convenient links for Anthony Trollope & Dr Thorne.
Susannah Fullerton: Twain and Trollope in Oz
Susannah Fullerton: Film adaptations of the classics
Susannah Fullerton: HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Anthony Trollope
Susannah Fullerton: Anthony Trollope: literary celebrity presented by Australian ABC Radio National PocketDocs