It is no doubt very wrong to long after a naughty thing. But nevertheless we all do so. One may say that hankering after naughty things is the very essence of the evil into which we have been precipitated by Adam’s fall.
Mark Robarts is the recently appointed vicar of Framley, and happily married to Fanny. His future appears secure, but Mark longs after “naughty things” like fox-hunting, horses, and parties. His troubles begin when he co-signs a loan for a so-called friend, Nathaniel Sowerby. Unbeknownst to Robarts, Sowerby is deeply in debt and on the run from creditors and bill collectors. Robarts naively believes everything will work out, and fails to tell his wife about the debt he’s incurred.
In Framley Parsonage we are also reunited with several other notable characters from the three earlier books: Archdeacon Grantly and his family, Dean Arabin and his wife Eleanor, Mrs Proudie the bishop’s domineering wife, Doctor Thorne, Frank and Mary Gresham, and the outspoken and very funny heiress Miss Dunstable. I loved seeing these old friends in new settings. I also enjoyed Trollope’s wit, as he poked fun at the clergy:
Let those who know clergymen, and like them, and have lived with them, only fancy it! Clergymen to be paid, not according to the temporalities of any living which they may have acquired, either by merit or favour, but in accordance with the work to be done! O Doddington! and O Stanhope, think of this, if an idea so sacrilegious can find entrance into your warm ecclesiastical bosoms! Ecclesiastical work to be bought and paid for according to its quantity and quality!
And at men in general:
“My dear!” said her husband, “it is typhus, and you must first think of the children. I will go.” “What on earth could you do, Mark?” said his wife. “Men on such occasions are almost worse than useless; and then they are so much more liable to infection.”
But back to Mark Robarts. It wasn’t long before his future looked bleak, but this is Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire, where things invariably turn out well in the end. In fact, the last chapter of Framley Parsonage is entitled, “How They Were All Married, Had Two Children, and Lived Happy Ever After”. The journey from near ruin to happily ever after is a long, meandering one with several related threads. As Mark is facing financial ruin, his sister Lucy comes to stay, and meets young, unmarried Lord Lufton. They are instantly attracted to one another, but Lady Lufton has strong feelings about her son marrying the vicar’s sister. And so begins another long, meandering journey in which Lady Lufton discovers why Lucy is the ideal choice for her son, and learns a few things about herself in the process. Trust me — that’s not a spoiler! Trollope’s outcomes are always predictable, but it doesn’t matter because getting there is so much fun.