Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne, though a fictional novel is but really a study on human nature. The diverse characters; Doctor Thorne, witty, true to his profession and his word and invariably the author’s hero; Mary Thorne, the doctor’s niece, humble yet proud, of ignoble birth but noble in character; the rough but kind-hearted Sir Rodger Scatherd; The pitiable Squire, Lord Gresham who is up to his nose in debt, his wife Lady Arabella, a schemer who means well for her loved ones, her son Frank Gresham who is hopelessly in love with Mary Thorne…and a horde of other characters make up Trollope’s most read novel.
Set in the rural County west of England namely Barsetshire, Trollope brings to life the quintessential rural England. Though Thomas Hardy in his novel Tess of D’Urbervilles does a highly commendable job of painting the rural England, it is a most difficult task to distinguish who does a better job between the two. Nonetheless, Trollope decidedly introduces the reader to Barsetshire before his characters and goes about it in a manner that can only be described as Trollopian.
There is a county in the west of England not so full of life, indeed, nor so widely spoken of as some of its manufacturing leviathan brethren in the North, but which is nevertheless very dear to those who know it well. Its green pastures, its waving wheat, its deep and shady and-let us add-dirty lanes, its paths and stiles, its tawny-coloured, well built rural churches, its avenues of beeches, and frequent Tudor manors, its constant county hunt, its social graces, and the general air of clanship which pervades it, has made it to its own inhabitants a favoured land of Goshen.
Another key feature of Doctor Thorne is the Narrator who casts a long shadow over the characters from the first sentence to the last. While in some narrations his (assuming the author’s gender) side comments would be an intrusion, in Trollope’s works, they are welcome. Here are about a few sprinkled throughout the novel. The ones on doctors are by far my favourite.
It is sometimes becoming enough for a man to wrap himself in a toga of silence and proclaim himself indifferent to public attacks but it is a sort of dignity which is difficult to maintain.
Ladies think that doctors should be married men. All the world feels that a man when married acquires some of the attributes of an old woman-he becomes to a certain extent, a motherly sort of being; he acquires a conversance with the women’s ways and women’s wants and loses the wilder and offensive sparks of his virility.
People when they are in love with each other or even when they pretend to be, do not generally show it by loud laughter.
She said to herself, proudly that God’s work 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
Good fires, winter cheer, groaning tables, and warm blankets make a fictitious summer, which to some tastes, is more delightful than the long days and hot summer.
Doctor Thorne is not outlandish in its plot or in its characters. It is real yet fictitious. Reading it, one glimpses into the lives of the heroes and villains and sees a clear reflection of his own. It is one novel I highly recommend. However, if you are not the reading kind (how unfortunate), you might enjoy watching it instead.