The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope

The Warden and The Last Chronicle of Barset make perfect bookends to The Chronicles of Barsetshire. Both focus on a clergyman facing difficult legal circumstances, and on the daughters of those men and the marriage prospects of those daughters.

Trollope does in The Last Chronicle what he also did so insightfully in The Warden: a study of character under pressure. In The Warden, Dr. Harding is a mild-mannered, humble, moral man, who struggles between what his conscience tells him is right and what friends and family want him to do. In The Last Chronicle, Mr. Crawley is a over-sensitive, proud, moral man who struggles between what his self-respect will let him do and the pressure to behave as other men do. Interestingly, both make similar choices; but they arrive at those choices by very different lines of thought. The daughters of these men are also a study in contrast. In The Warden, Eleanor is a strong-willed, proud beauty, very loyal to her father. She faces reduced circumstances, but might marry a well-off man, if only he can come around to her point of view. In The Last Chronicle, Grace is a humble, dutiful beauty, very devoted to her father and family. Though in reduced circumstances, she might marry a well-off man, if only her father’s name can be cleared and he can stick with her against his family’s wishes. In both cases, the daughters reach similar romantic ends, but face different obstacles along the way (internally as well as externally).

Altogether, The Last Chronicle of Barset is an extremely satisfying conclusion to the series.

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