Author: Anthony Trollope
First published: 1855
Locale: London and Barchester, England
Plot: Social realism
Time: Mid-nineteenth century
The Reverend Septimus Harding, a kind and gentle man who had been a minor canon near Barchester for many years. At the age of fifty, he had become precentor of Barchester Cathedral, a position that included the wardenship of Hiram's Hospital. The latter was an almshouse for twelve old men established by the will of John Hiram four centuries earlier. Through the efforts of John Bold, a local reformer, and the Jupiter, a newspaper devoted to attacking the greed and power of the church, Mr. Harding is accused of receiving too large an income from his management of the hospital. The legal issue is ambiguous and the almshouse has been well managed, but Harding, distressed that others might question the justice of his position, resigns. All the legal and ecclesiastical officials, even John Bold himself, protest the resignation. After the suit is dropped, the bishop offers the warden a position as chaplain in the bishop's house, but Harding refuses this charity and lives in poor lodgings in town, supported only by his tiny living near the Cathedral Close.
Eleanor Harding, the favorite and younger daughter of Septimus Harding. She is in love with John Bold. Fully cog-nizant of her father's sensitivity, she understands why he wants to resign his wardenship. In a scene that reveals their love for each other, she begs John Bold to drop the suit, as he does. She marries Bold, and her father frequently visits the couple.
The Reverend Theophilus Grantly, the archdeacon of Barchester and rector of Plumstead Episcopi. He is the son of the bishop and the son-in-law of Mr. Harding. Archdeacon Grantly believes in “the sacred justice of all ecclesiastical revenues.” Recognized as more worldly than his fellow churchmen, he insists that Harding take a strong stand against the lawsuit and the press, and he disapproves strongly of Eleanor's interest in John Bold.
Susan Grantly, the wife of Archdeacon Grantly and the older daughter of Mr. Harding. She joins her husband in trying to persuade her father to insist on the prerogatives of the church.
Bishop Grantly, the father of Archdeacon Grantly, more than seventy years old. The bland, kindly bishop of Barchester warmly supports Harding but leaves most of the controversial campaigning to his son.
John Bold, a surgeon and town councillor, genuinely concerned with reform. He honestly believes that John Hiram's will did not provide for the income the warden receives, and he begins the action by instituting a lawsuit. When he is persuaded that the lawsuit has created more injustice than it has ameliorated, he willingly drops the charges.
Mary Bold, the older sister of John Bold. A kindly woman, she promotes the engagement of her brother to Eleanor Harding, her best friend.
John Bunce, the oldest of the beadsmen at Hiram's Hospital. He is entirely loyal to Harding.
Abel Handy, another beadsman at Hiram's Hospital, selfishly disloyal to Harding.
Tom Towers, a reporter for the Jupiter. He maintains, in print, that Harding has unjustly received more money than Hiram's will intended. His attacks, originating from an anticlerical point of view, are both personal and unfair.
Sir Abraham Haphazard, an eminent queens' counsel and attorney general. He is hired to defend Harding and is a conservative adherent of ecclesiastical privilege.
Mr. Finney, the solicitor hired by John Bold to collect evidence against the warden. He gets most of the inmates of Hiram's Hospital to sign a petition protesting the management by promising them each one hundred pounds per year.
Doctor Pessimist Anticant, a Scots pamphleteer, one of whose moral and reforming pamphlets “exposes” Harding.
Mr. Popular Sentiment, a muckraking novelist whose work, Almshouse, depicts the clergyman as a vicious monster depriving the old beadsmen of all sustenance.
Chadwick, the bishop's steward and the man who farms John Hiram's estate.
Charles James Grantly, the oldest child of Archdeacon Grantly, an exact, careful boy.
Henry Grantly, the second and favorite son of Archdeacon Grantly, the most “brilliant” of the children.
Samuel Grantly, a sneaky, cunning child of Archdeacon Grantly.
Florinda and Grizzel Grantly, daughters of Archdeacon Grantly.