Part 2 out of 11
forth to empty benches. Let a barrister attempt to talk without
talking well, and he will talk but seldom. A judge's charge need be
listened to perforce by none but the jury, prisoner, and gaoler.
A member of Parliament can be coughed down or counted out. Town-
councillors can be tabooed. But no one can rid himself of the
preaching clergyman. He is the bore of the age, the old man whom we
Sindbads cannot shake off, the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday's
rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God's service
distasteful. We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more
than that. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay,
we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of public worship, but we
desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which
ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be
able to leave the house of God without that anxious longing for
escape which is the common consequence of common sermons.
With what complacency will a young parson deduce false conclusions
from misunderstood texts, and then threaten us with all the penalties
of Hades if we neglect to comply with the injunctions he has given
us! Yes, my too self-confident juvenile friend, I do believe in
those mysteries which are so common in your mouth; I do believe in
the unadulterated word which you hold there in your hand; but you
must pardon me if, in some things, I doubt your interpretation. The
Bible is good, the prayer-book is good, nay, you yourself would be
acceptable, if you would read to me some portion of those time-
honoured discourses which our. great divines have elaborated in the
full maturity of their powers. But you must excuse me, my
insufficient young lecturer, if I yawn over your imperfect sentences,
your repeated phrases, your false pathos, your drawlings and
denouncings, your humming and hawing, your ohing and ahing, your
black gloves and your white handkerchief. To me, it all means
nothing; and hours are too precious to be so wasted--if one could
only avoid it.
And here I must make a protest against the pretence, so often put
forward by the working clergy, that they are overburdened by the
multitude of sermons to be preached. We are all too fond of our own
voices, and a preacher is encouraged in the vanity of making his
heard by the privilege of a compelled audience. His sermon is the
pleasant morsel of his life, his delicious moment of self-exaltation.
"I have preached nine sermons this week," said a young friend to me
the other day, with hand languidly raised to his brow, the picture of
an overburdened martyr. "Nine this week, seven last week, four the
week before. I have preached twenty-three sermons this month. It is
really too much."
"Too much, indeed," said I, shuddering; "too much for the strength of
"Yes," he answered meekly, "indeed it is; I am beginning to feel it
"Would," said I, "you could feel it--would that you could be made to
feel it." But he never guessed that my heart was wrung for the poor
There was, at any rate, no tedium felt in listening to Mr. Slope on
the occasion in question. His subject came too home to his audience
to be dull, and to tell the truth Mr. Slope had the gift of using
words forcibly. He was heard through his thirty minutes of eloquence
with mute attention and open ears, but with angry eyes, which glared
round from one enraged parson to another, with wide-spread nostrils
from which already burst forth fumes of indignation, and with many
shufflings of the feet and uneasy motions of the body, which
betokened minds disturbed and hearts not at peace with all the world.
At last the bishop, who, of all the congregation, had been most
surprised, and whose hair almost stood on end with terror, gave the
blessing in a manner not at all equal to that in which he had long
been practising it in his own study, and the congregation was free to
go their way.
The Dean and Chapter Take Counsel
All Barchester was in a tumult. Dr. Grantly could hardly get himself
out of the cathedral porch before he exploded in his wrath. The old
dean betook himself silently to his deanery, afraid to speak, and
there sat, half-stupefied, pondering many things in vain. Mr.
Harding crept forth solitary and unhappy and, slowly passing beneath
the elms of the close, could scarcely bring himself to believe that
the words which he had heard had proceeded from the pulpit of
Barchester cathedral. Was he again to be disturbed? Was his whole
life to be shown up as a useless sham a second time? Would he have
to abdicate his precentorship, as he had his wardenship, and to give
up chanting, as he had given up his twelve old bedesmen? And what if
he did! Some other Jupiter, some other Mr. Slope, would come and
turn him out of St. Cuthbert's. Surely he could not have been wrong
all his life in chanting the litany as he had done! He began,
however, to have his doubts. Doubting himself was Mr. Harding's
weakness. It is not, however, the usual fault of his order.
Yes! All Barchester was in a tumult It was not only the clergy who
were affected. The laity also had listened to Mr. Slope's new
doctrine, all with surprise, some with indignation, and some with a
mixed feeling, in which dislike of the preacher was not so strongly
blended. The old bishop and his chaplains, the dean and his canons
and minor canons, the old choir, and especially Mr. Harding who was
at the head of it, had all been popular in Barchester. They had
spent their money and done good; the poor had not been ground down;
the clergy in society had neither been overbearing nor austere; and
the whole repute of the city was due to its ecclesiastical
importance. Yet there were those who had heard Mr. Slope with
It is so pleasant to receive a fillip of excitement when suffering
from the dull routine of everyday life! The anthems and Te Deums
were in themselves delightful, but they had been heard so often! Mr.
Slope was certainly not delightful, but he was new and, moreover,
clever. They had long thought it slow, so said now many of the
Barchesterians, to go on as they had done in their old humdrum way,
giving ear to none of the religious changes which were moving the
world without. People in advance of the age now had new ideas, and
it was quite time that Barchester should go in advance. Mr. Slope
might be right. Sunday had certainly not been strictly kept in
Barchester, except as regarded the cathedral services. Indeed the
two hours between services had long been appropriated to morning
calls and hot luncheons. Then, Sunday-schools! Really more ought to
have been done as to Sunday-schools--Sabbath-day schools Mr. Slope
had called them. The late bishop had really not thought of Sunday-
schools as he should have done. (These people probably did not
reflect that catechisms and collects are quite as hard work to the
young mind as bookkeeping is to the elderly, and that quite as little
feeling of worship enters into the one task as the other.) And then,
as regarded that great question of musical services, there might be
much to be said on Mr. Slope's side of the question. It certainly
was the fact that people went to the cathedral to hear the music, &c.
And so a party absolutely formed itself in Barchester on Mr. Slope's
side of the question! This consisted, among the upper classes,
chiefly of ladies. No man--that is, no gentleman--could possibly be
attracted by Mr. Slope, or consent to sit at the feet of so abhorrent
a Gamaliel. Ladies are sometimes less nice in their appreciation of
physical disqualification; provided that a man speak to them well,
they will listen, though he speak from a mouth never so deformed and
hideous. Wilkes was most fortunate as a lover, and the damp, sandy-
haired, saucer-eyed, red-fisted Mr. Slope was powerful only over the
There were, however, one or two of the neighbouring clergy who
thought it not quite safe to neglect the baskets in which for the
nonce were stored the loaves and fishes of the diocese of Barchester.
They, and they only, came to call on Mr. Slope after his performance
in the cathedral pulpit. Among these Mr. Quiverful, the rector of
Puddingdale, whose wife still continued to present him from year to
year with fresh pledges of her love, and so to increase his cares
and, it is to be hoped, his happiness equally. Who can wonder that a
gentleman with fourteen living children and a bare income of £400 a
year should look after the loaves and fishes, even when they are
under the thumb of a Mr. Slope?
Very soon after the Sunday on which the sermon was preached, the
leading clergy of the neighbourhood held high debate together as to
how Mr. Slope should be put down. In the first place, he should
never again preach from the pulpit of Barchester cathedral. This was
Dr. Grantly's earliest dictum, and they all agreed, providing only
that they had the power to exclude him. Dr. Grantly declared that
the power rested with the dean and chapter, observing that no
clergyman out of the chapter had a claim to preach there, saving only
the bishop himself. To this the dean assented, but alleged that
contests on such a subject would be unseemly; to which rejoined a
meagre little doctor, one of the cathedral prebendaries, that the
contest must be all on the side of Mr. Slope if every prebendary were
always there ready to take his own place in the pulpit. Cunning
little meagre doctor, whom it suits well to live in his own cosy
house within Barchester close, and who is well content to have his
little fling at Dr. Vesey Stanhope and other absentees whose Italian
villas, or enticing London homes, are more tempting than cathedral
stalls and residences!
To this answered the burly chancellor, a man rather silent indeed,
but very sensible, that absent prebendaries had their vicars, and
that in such case the vicar's right to the pulpit was the same as
that of the higher order. To which the dean assented, groaning
deeply at these truths. Thereupon, however, the meagre doctor
remarked that they would be in the hands of their minor canons, one
of whom might at any hour betray his trust. Whereon was heard from
the burly chancellor an ejaculation sounding somewhat like "Pooh,
pooh, pooh!" but it might be that the worthy man was but blowing out
the heavy breath from his windpipe. Why silence him at all?
suggested Mr. Harding. Let them not be ashamed to hear what any man
might have to preach to them, unless he preached false doctrine; in
which case, let the bishop silence him. So spoke our friend; vainly;
for human ends must be attained by human means. But the dean saw a
ray of hope out of those purblind old eyes of his. Yes, let them
tell the bishop how distasteful to them was this Mr. Slope: a new
bishop just come to his seat could not wish to insult his clergy
while the gloss was yet fresh on his first apron.
Then up rose Dr. Grantly and, having thus collected the scattered
wisdom of his associates, spoke forth with words of deep authority.
When I say up rose the archdeacon, I speak of the inner man, which
then sprang up to more immediate action, for the doctor had bodily
been standing all along with his back to the dean's empty fire-grate,
and the tails of his frock coat supported over his two arms. His
hands were in his breeches pockets.
"It is quite clear that this man must not be allowed to preach again
in this cathedral. We all see that, except our dear friend here, the
milk of whose nature runs so softly that he would not have the heart
to refuse the Pope the loan of his pulpit, if the Pope would come and
ask it. We must not, however, allow the man to preach again here.
It is not because his opinion on church matters may be different from
ours--with that one would not quarrel. It is because he has
purposely insulted us. When he went up into that pulpit last Sunday,
his studied object was to give offence to men who had grown old in
reverence of those things of which he dared to speak so slightingly.
What! To come here a stranger, a young, unknown, and unfriended
stranger and tell us, in the name of the bishop his master, that we
are ignorant of our duties, old-fashioned, and useless! I don't know
whether most to admire his courage or his impudence! And one thing I
will tell you: that sermon originated solely with the man himself.
The bishop was no more a party to it than was the dean here. You all
know how grieved I am to see a bishop in this diocese holding the
latitudinarian ideas by which Dr. Proudie has made himself
conspicuous. You all know how greatly I should distrust the opinion
of such a man. But in this matter I hold him to be blameless. I
believe Dr. Proudie has lived too long among gentlemen to be guilty,
or to instigate another to be guilty, of so gross an outrage. No!
That man uttered what was untrue when he hinted that he was speaking
as the mouthpiece of the bishop. It suited his ambitious views at
once to throw down the gauntlet to us--at once to defy us here in the
quiet of our own religious duties--here within the walls of our own
loved cathedral--here where we have for so many years exercised our
ministry without schism and with good repute. Such an attack upon
us, coming from such a quarter, is abominable."
"Abominable," groaned the dean. "Abominable," muttered the meagre
doctor. "Abominable," re-echoed the chancellor, uttering the sound
from the bottom of his deep chest. "I really think it was," said Mr.
"Most abominable and most unjustifiable," continued the archdeacon.
"But, Mr. Dean, thank God, that pulpit is still our own: your own, I
should say. That pulpit belongs solely to the dean and chapter of
Barchester Cathedral, and as yet Mr. Slope is no part of that
chapter. You, Mr. Dean, have suggested that we should appeal to the
bishop to abstain from forcing this man on us; but what if the bishop
allow himself to be ruled by his chaplain? In my opinion the matter
is in our own hands. Mr. Slope cannot preach there without
permission asked and obtained, and let that permission be invariably
refused. Let all participation in the ministry of the cathedral
service be refused to him. Then, if the bishop choose to interfere,
we shall know what answer to make to the bishop. My friend here has
suggested that this man may again find his way into the pulpit by
undertaking the duty of some of your minor canons, but I am sure that
we may fully trust to these gentlemen to support us, when it is known
that the dean objects to any such transfer."
"Of course you may," said the chancellor.
There was much more discussion among the learned conclave, all of
which, of course, ended in obedience to the archdeacon's commands.
They had too long been accustomed to his rule to shake it off so
soon, and in this particular case they had none of them a wish to
abet the man whom he was so anxious to put down.
Such a meeting as that we have just recorded is not held in such a
city as Barchester unknown and untold of. Not only was the fact of
the meeting talked of in every respectable house, including the
palace, but the very speeches of the dean, the archdeacon, and
chancellor were repeated; not without many additions and imaginary
circumstances, according to the tastes and opinions of the relaters.
All, however, agreed in saying that Mr. Slope was to be debarred from
opening his mouth in the cathedral of Barchester; many believed that
the vergers were to be ordered to refuse him even the accommodation
of a seat; and some of the most far-going advocates for strong
measures declared that his sermon was looked upon as an indictable
offence, and that proceedings were to be taken against him for
The party who were inclined to defend him--the enthusiastically
religious young ladies and the middle-aged spinsters desirous of a
move--of course took up his defence the more warmly on account of
this attack. If they could not hear Mr. Slope in the cathedral, they
would hear him elsewhere; they would leave the dull dean, the dull
old prebendaries, and the scarcely less dull young minor canons to
preach to each other; they would work slippers and cushions and hem
bands for Mr. Slope, make him a happy martyr, and stick him up in
some new Sion or Bethesda, and put the cathedral quite out of
Dr. and Mrs. Proudie at once returned to London. They thought it
expedient not to have to encounter any personal application from the
dean and chapter respecting the sermon till the violence of the storm
had expended itself; but they left Mr. Slope behind them nothing
daunted, and he went about his work zealously, flattering such as
would listen to his flattery, whispering religious twaddle into the
ears of foolish women, ingratiating himself with the few clergy who
would receive him, visiting the houses of the poor, inquiring into
all people, prying into everything, and searching with his minutest
eye into all palatial dilapidations. He did not, however, make any
immediate attempt to preach again in the cathedral.
And so all Barchester was by the ears.
The Ex-warden Rejoices in His Probable Return to the Hospital
Among the ladies in Barchester who have hitherto acknowledged Mr,
Slope as their spiritual director must not be reckoned either the
Widow Bold or her sister-in-law. On the first outbreak of the wrath
of the denizens of the close, none had been more animated against the
intruder than these two ladies. And this was natural. Who could he
so proud of the musical distinction of their own cathedral as the
favourite daughter of the precentor? Who would be so likely to
resent an insult offered to the old choir? And in such matters Miss
Bold and her sister-in-law had but one opinion.
This wrath, however, has in some degree been mitigated, and I regret
to say that these ladies allowed Mr. Slope to he his own apologist.
About a fortnight after the sermon had been preached, they were both
of them not a little surprised by hearing Mr. Slope announced, as the
page in buttons opened Mrs. Bold's drawing-room door. Indeed, what
living man could, by a mere morning visit, have surprised them more?
Here was the great enemy of all that was good in Barchester coming
into their own drawing-room, and they had no strong arm, no ready
tongue, near at hand for their protection. The widow snatched her
baby out of its cradle into her lap, and Mary Bold stood up ready to
die manfully in that baby's behalf, should, under any circumstances,
such a sacrifice become necessary.
In this manner was Mr. Slope received. But when he left, he was
allowed by each lady to take her hand and to make his adieux as
gentlemen do who have been graciously entertained! Yes, he shook
hands with them, and was curtseyed out courteously, the buttoned page
opening the door as he would have done for the best canon of them
all. He had touched the baby's little hand and blessed him with a
fervid blessing; he had spoken to the widow of her early sorrows, and
Eleanor's silent tears had not rebuked him; he had told Mary Bold
that her devotion would he rewarded, and Mary Bold had heard the
praise without disgust. And how had he done all this? How had he so
quickly turned aversion into, at any rate, acquaintance? How had he
over-come the enmity with which these ladies had been ready to
receive him, and made his peace with them so easily?
My readers will guess from what I have written that I myself do not
like Mr. Slope, but I am constrained to admit that he is a man of
parts. He knows how to say a soft word in the proper place; he knows
how to adapt his flattery to the ears of his hearers; he knows the
wiles of the serpent, and he uses them. Could Mr. Slope have adapted
his manners to men as well as to women, could he ever have learnt the
ways of a gentleman, he might have risen to great things.
He commenced his acquaintance with Eleanor by praising her father.
He had, he said, become aware that he had unfortunately offended the
feelings of a man of whom he could not speak too highly; he would not
now allude to a subject which was probably too serious for drawing-
room conversation, but he would say that it had been very far from
him to utter a word in disparagement of a man of whom all the world,
at least the clerical world, spoke so highly as it did of Mr.
Harding. And so he went on, unsaying a great deal of his sermon,
expressing his highest admiration for the precentor's musical
talents, eulogizing the father and the daughter and the sister-in-
law, speaking in that low silky whisper which he always had specially
prepared for feminine ears, and, ultimately, gaining his object.
When he left, he expressed a hope that he might again he allowed to
call; and though Eleanor gave no verbal assent to this, she did not
express dissent: and so Mr. Slope's right to visit at the widow's
house was established.
The day after this visit Eleanor told her father of it and expressed
an opinion that Mr. Slope was not quite so black as he had been
painted. Mr. Harding opened his eyes rather wider than usual when he
heard what had occurred, but he said little; he could not agree in
any praise of Mr. Slope, and it was not his practice to say much evil
of anyone. He did not, however, like the visit, and simple-minded as
he was, he felt sure that Mr. Slope had some deeper motive than the
mere pleasure of making soft speeches to two ladies.
Mr. Harding, however, had come to see his daughter with other purpose
than that of speaking either good or evil of Mr. Slope. He had come
to tell her that the place of warden in Hiram's Hospital was again to
be filled up and that in all probability he would once more return to
his old home and his twelve bedesmen.
"But," said he, laughing, "I shall be greatly shorn of my ancient
"Why so, Papa?"
"This new act of Parliament that is to put us all on our feet again,"
continued he, "settles my income at four hundred and fifty pounds per
"Four hundred and fifty," said she, "instead of eight hundred! Well,
that is rather shabby. But still, Papa, you'll have the dear old
house and the garden?"
"My dear," said he, "it's worth twice the money;" and as he spoke he
showed a jaunty kind of satisfaction in his tone and manner and in
the quick, pleasant way in which he paced Eleanor's drawing-room.
"It's worth twice the money. I shall have the house and the garden
and a larger income than I can possibly want."
"At any rate, you'll have no extravagant daughter to provide for;"
and as she spoke, the young widow put her arm within his, and made
him sit on the sofa beside her; "at any rate, you'll not have that
"No, my dear, and I shall be rather lonely without her; but we won't
think of that now. As regards income, I shall have plenty for all I
want. I shall have my old house, and I don't mind owning now that I
have felt sometimes the inconvenience of living in a lodging.
Lodgings are very nice for young men, but at my time of life there is
a want of--I hardly know what to call it, perhaps not respect-
"Oh, Papa! I'm sure there's been nothing like that. Nobody has
thought it; nobody in all Barchester has been more respected than you
have been since you took those rooms in High Street. Nobody! Not
the dean in his deanery, or the archdeacon out at Plumstead."
"The archdeacon would not be much obliged to you if he heard you,"
said he, smiling somewhat at the exclusive manner in which his
daughter confined her illustration to the church dignitaries of the
chapter of Barchester; "but at any rate I shall be glad to get back
to the old house. Since I heard that it was all settled, I have
begun to fancy that I can't be comfortable without my two sitting-
"Come and stay with me, Papa, till it is settled--there's a dear
"Thank ye, Nelly. But no, I won't do that. It would make two
movings. I shall be very glad to get back to my old men again.
Alas! alas! There have six of them gone in these few last years.
Six out of twelve! And the others I fear have had but a sorry life
of it there. Poor Bunce, poor old Bunce!"
Bunce was one of the surviving recipients of Hiram's charity, an old
man, now over ninety, who had long been a favourite of Mr. Harding's.
"How happy old Bunce will be," said Mrs. Bold, clapping her soft
hands softly. "How happy they all will be to have you back again.
You may be sure there will soon be friendship among them again when
you are there."
"But," said he, half-laughing, "I am to have new troubles, which will
be terrible to me. There are to be twelve old women and a matron.
How shall I manage twelve women and a matron!"
"The matron will manage the women, of course."
"And who'll manage the matron?" said he.
"She won't want to be managed. She'll be a great lady herself, I
suppose. But, Papa, where will the matron live? She is not to live
in the warden's house with you, is she?"
"Well, I hope not, my dear."
"Oh, Papa, I tell you fairly, I won't have a matron for a new
"You shan't, my dear; that is, if I can help it. But they are going
to build another house for the matron and the women, and I believe
they haven't even fixed yet on the site of the building."
"And have they appointed the matron?" said Eleanor.
"They haven't appointed the warden yet," replied he.
"But there's no doubt about that, I suppose," said his daughter.
Mr. Harding explained that he thought there was no doubt; that the
archdeacon had declared as much, saying that the bishop and his
chaplain between them had not the power to appoint anyone else, even
if they had the will to do so and sufficient impudence to carry out
such a will. The archdeacon was of opinion that though Mr. Harding
had resigned his wardenship, and had done so unconditionally, he had
done so under circumstances which left the bishop no choice as to his
reappointment, now that the affair of the hospital had been settled
on a new basis by act of Parliament. Such was the archdeacon's
opinion, and his father-in-law received it without a shadow of doubt.
Dr. Grantly had always been strongly opposed to Mr. Harding's
resignation of the place. He had done all in his power to dissuade
him from it. He had considered that Mr. Harding was bound to
withstand the popular clamour with which he was attacked for
receiving so large an income as eight hundred a year from such a
charity, and was not even yet satisfied that his father-in-law's
conduct had not been pusillanimous and undignified. He looked also
on this reduction of the warden's income as a shabby, paltry scheme
on the part of government for escaping from a difficulty into which
it had been brought by the public press. Dr. Grantly observed that
the government had no more right to dispose of a sum of four hundred
and fifty pounds a year out of the income of Hiram's legacy than of
nine hundred; whereas, as he said, the bishop, dean, and chapter
clearly had a right to settle what sum should be paid. He also
declared that the government had no more right to saddle the charity
with twelve old women than with twelve hundred, and he was,
therefore, very indignant on the matter. He probably forgot when so
talking that government had done nothing of the kind and had never
assumed any such might or any such right. He made the common mistake
of attributing to the government, which in such matters is powerless,
the doings of Parliament, which in such matters is omnipotent.
But though he felt that the glory and honour of the situation of
warden of Barchester Hospital were indeed curtailed by the new
arrangement; that the whole establishment had to a certain degree
been made vile by the touch of Whig commissioners; that the place,
with its lessened income, its old women, and other innovations, was
very different from the hospital of former days; still the archdeacon
was too practical a man of the world to wish that his father-in-law,
who had at present little more than £200 per annum for all his wants,
should refuse the situation, defiled, undignified, and commission-
ridden as it was.
Mr. Harding had, accordingly, made up his mind that he would return
to his old home at the hospital, and, to tell the truth, had
experienced almost a childish pleasure in the idea of doing so. The
diminished income was to him not even the source of momentary regret.
The matron and the old women did rather go against the grain, but he
was able to console himself with the reflection that, after all, such
an arrangement might be of real service to the poor of the city. The
thought that he must receive his reappointment as the gift of the new
bishop, and probably through the hands of Mr. Slope, annoyed him a
little, but his mind was set at rest by the assurance of the
archdeacon that there would be no favour in such a presentation. The
reappointment of the old warden would be regarded by all the world as
a matter of course. Mr. Harding, therefore, felt no hesitation in
telling his daughter that they might look upon his return to his old
quarters as a settled matter.
"And you won't have to ask for it, Papa?"
"Certainly not, my dear. There is no ground on which I could ask for
any favour from the bishop, whom, indeed, I hardly know. Nor would I
ask a favour, the granting of which might possibly be made a question
to be settled by Mr. Slope. No," said he, moved for a moment by a
spirit very unlike his own, "I certainly shall be very glad to go
back to the hospital; but I should never go there if it were
necessary that my doing so should be the subject of a request to Mr.
This little outbreak of her father's anger jarred on the present tone
of Eleanor's mind. She had not learnt to like Mr. Slope, but she had
learnt to think that he had much respect for her father; and she
would, therefore, willingly use her efforts to induce something like
good feeling between them.
"Papa," said she, "I think you somewhat mistake Mr. Slope's
"Do I?" said he placidly.
"I think you do, Papa. I think he intended no personal disrespect to
you when he preached the sermon which made the archdeacon and the
dean so angry!"
"I never supposed he did, my dear. I hope I never inquired within
myself whether he did or no. Such a matter would be unworthy of any
inquiry and very unworthy of the consideration of the chapter. But I
fear he intended disrespect to the ministration of God's services, as
conducted in conformity with the rules of the Church of England."
"But might it not he that he thought it his duty to express his
dissent from that which you, and the dean, and all of us here so much
"It can hardly be the duty of a young man rudely to assail the
religious convictions of his elders in the church. Courtesy should
have kept him silent, even if neither charity nor modesty could do
"But Mr. Slope would say that on such a subject the commands of his
heavenly Master do not admit of his being silent."
"Nor of his being courteous, Eleanor?"
"He did not say that, Papa."
"Believe me, my child, that Christian ministers are never called on
by God's word to insult the convictions, or even the prejudices of
their brethren, and that religion is at any rate not less susceptible
of urbane and courteous conduct among men than any other study which
men may take up. I am sorry to say that I cannot defend Mr. Slope's
sermon in the cathedral. But come, my dear, put on your bonnet and
let us walk round the dear old gardens at the hospital. I have never
yet had the heart to go beyond the courtyard since we left the place.
Now I think I can venture to enter."
Eleanor rang the bell and gave a variety of imperative charges as to
the welfare of the precious baby, whom, all but unwillingly, she was
about to leave for an hour or so, and then sauntered forth with her
father to revisit the old hospital. It had been forbidden ground to
her as well as to him since the day on which they had walked forth
together from its walls.
The Stanhope Family
It is now three months since Dr. Proudie began his reign, and changes
have already been effected in the diocese which show at least the
energy of an active mind. Among other things absentee clergymen have
been favoured with hints much too strong to be overlooked. Poor dear
old Bishop Grantly had on this matter been too lenient, and the
archdeacon had never been inclined to he severe with those who were
absent on reputable pretences, and who provided for their duties in a
Among the greatest of the diocesan sinners in this respect was Dr.
Vesey Stanhope. Years had now passed since he had done a day's duty,
and yet there was no reason against his doing duty except a want of
inclination on his own part. He held a prebendal stall in the
diocese, one of the best residences in the close, and the two large
rectories of Crabtree Canonicorum and Stogpingum. Indeed, he had the
cure of three parishes, for that of Eiderdown was joined to
Stogpingum. He had resided in Italy for twelve years. His first
going there had been attributed to a sore throat, and that sore
throat, though never repeated in any violent manner, had stood him in
such stead that it had enabled him to live in easy idleness ever
He had now been summoned home--not, indeed, with rough violence, or
by any peremptory command, but by a mandate which he found himself
unable to disregard. Mr. Slope had written to him by the bishop's
desire. In the first place, the bishop much wanted the valuable co-
operation of Dr. Vesey Stanhope in the diocese; in the next, the
bishop thought it his imperative duty to become personally acquainted
with the most conspicuous of his diocesan clergy; then the bishop
thought it essentially necessary for Dr. Stanhope's own interests
that Dr. Stanhope should, at any rate for a time, return to
Barchester; and lastly, it was said that so strong a feeling was at
the present moment evinced by the hierarchs of the church with
reference to the absence of its clerical members that it behoved Dr.
Vesey Stanhope not to allow his name to stand among those which would
probably in a few months be submitted to the councils of the nation.
There was something so ambiguously frightful in this last threat that
Dr. Stanhope determined to spend two or three summer months at his
residence in Barchester. His rectories were inhabited by his
curates, and he felt himself from disuse to be unfit for parochial
duty; but his prebendal home was kept empty for him, and he thought
it probable that he might be able now and again to preach a prebendal
sermon. He arrived, therefore, with all his family at Barchester,
and he and they must be introduced to my readers.
The great family characteristic of the Stanhopes might probably be
said to be heartlessness, but this want of feeling was, in most of
them, accompanied by so great an amount of good nature as to make
itself but little noticeable to the world. They were so prone to
oblige their neighbours that their neighbours failed to perceive how
indifferent to them was the happiness and well-being of those around
them. The Stanhopes would visit you in your sickness (provided it
were not contagious), would bring you oranges, French novels, and the
last new bit of scandal, and then hear of your death or your recovery
with an equally indifferent composure. Their conduct to each other
was the same as to the world; they bore and forbore; and there was
sometimes, as will be seen, much necessity for forbearing; but their
love among themselves rarely reached above this. It is astonishing
how much each of the family was able to do, and how much each did, to
prevent the well-being of the other four.
For there were five in all; the doctor, namely, and Mrs. Stanhope,
two daughters, and one son. The doctor, perhaps, was the least
singular and most estimable of them all, and yet such good qualities
as he possessed were all negative. He was a good-looking rather
plethoric gentleman of about sixty years of age. His hair was snow-
white, very plentiful, and somewhat like wool of the finest
description. His whiskers were very large and very white and gave to
his face the appearance of a benevolent, sleepy old lion. His dress
was always unexceptionable. Although he had lived. so many years in
Italy it was invariably of a decent clerical hue, but it never was
hyperclerical. He was a man not given to much talking, but what
little he did say was generally well said. His reading seldom went
beyond romances and poetry of the lightest and not always most moral
description. He was thoroughly a bon vivant; an accomplished judge
of wine, though he never drank to excess; and a most inexorable
critic in all affairs touching the kitchen. He had had much to
forgive in his own family, since a family had grown up around him,
and had forgiven everything--except inattention to his dinner. His
weakness in that respect was now fully understood, and his temper but
seldom tried. As Dr. Stanhope was a clergyman, it may be supposed
that his religious convictions made up a considerable part of his
character, but this was not so. That he had religious convictions
must be believed, but he rarely obtruded them, even on his children.
This abstinence on his part was not systematic but very
characteristic of the man. It was not that he had predetermined
never to influence their thoughts, but he was so habitually idle that
his time for doing so had never come till the opportunity for doing
so was gone forever. Whatever conviction the father may have had,
the children were at any rate but indifferent members of the church
from which he drew his income.
Such was Dr. Stanhope. The features of Mrs. Stanhope's character
were even less plainly marked than those of her lord. The far niente
of her Italian life had entered into her very soul and brought her to
regard a state of inactivity as the only earthly good. In manner and
appearance she was exceedingly prepossessing. She had been a beauty,
and even now, at fifty-five, she was a handsome woman. Her dress was
always perfect: she never dressed but once in the day and never
appeared till between three and four, but when she did appear, she
appeared at her best. Whether the toil rested partly with her, or
wholly with her handmaid, it is not for such a one as the author even
to imagine. The structure of her attire was always elaborate and yet
never over-laboured. She was rich in apparel but not bedizened with
finery; her ornaments were costly, rare, and such as could not fail
to attract notice but they did not look as though worn with that
purpose. She well knew the great architectural secret of decorating
her constructions and never descended to construct a decoration. But
when we have said that Mrs. Stanhope knew how to dress and used her
knowledge daily, we have said all. Other purpose in life she had
none. It was something, indeed, that she did not interfere with the
purposes of others. In early life she had undergone great trials
with reference to the doctor's dinners, but for the last ten or
twelve years her elder daughter Charlotte had taken that labour off
her hands, and she had had little to trouble her--little, that is,
till the edict for this terrible English journey had gone forth:
since then, indeed, her life had been laborious enough. For such a
one, the toil of being carried from the shores of Como to the city of
Barchester is more than labour enough, let the care of the carriers
be ever so vigilant. Mrs. Stanhope had been obliged to have every
one of her dresses taken in from the effects of the journey.
Charlotte Stanhope was at this time about thirty-five years old, and
whatever may have been her faults, she had none of those which belong
particularly to old young ladies. She neither dressed young, nor
talked young, nor indeed looked young. She appeared to be perfectly
content with her time of life and in no way affected the graces of
youth. She was a fine young woman, and had she been a man, would
have been a very fine young man. All that was done in the house, and
that was not done by servants, was done by her. She gave the orders,
paid the bills, hired and dismissed the domestics, made the tea,
carved the meat, and managed everything in the Stanhope household.
She, and she alone, could ever induce her father to look into the
state of his worldly concerns. She, and she alone, could in any
degree control the absurdities of her sister. She, and she alone,
prevented the whole family from falling into utter disrepute and
beggary. It was by her advice that they now found themselves very
unpleasantly situated in Barchester.
So far, the character of Charlotte Stanhope is not unprepossessing.
But it remains to be said that the influence which she had in her
family, though it had been used to a certain extent for their worldly
well-being, had not been used to their real benefit, as it might have
been. She had aided her father in his indifference to his
professional duties, counselling him that his livings were as much
his individual property as the estates of his elder brother were the
property of that worthy peer. She had for years past stifled every
little rising wish for a return to England which the doctor had from
time to time expressed. She had encouraged her mother in her
idleness, in order that she herself might be mistress and manager of
the Stanhope household. She had encouraged and fostered the follies
of her sister, though she was always willing, and often able, to
protect her from their probable result. She had done her best and
had thoroughly succeeded in spoiling her brother, and turning him
loose upon the world an idle man without a profession and without a
shilling that he could call his own.
Miss Stanhope was a clever woman, able to talk on most subjects, and
quite indifferent as to what the subject was. She prided herself on
her freedom from English prejudice and, she might have added, from
feminine delicacy. On religion she was a pure free-thinker, and with
much want of true affection, delighted to throw out her own views
before the troubled mind of her father. To have shaken what remained
of his Church of England faith would have gratified her much, but the
idea of his abandoning his preferment in the church had never once
presented itself to her mind. How could he indeed, when he had no
income from any other source?
But the two most prominent members of the family still remain to be
described. The second child had been christened Madeline and had
been a great beauty. We need not say had been, for she was never
more beautiful than at the time of which we write, though her person
for many years had been disfigured by an accident. It is unnecessary
that we should give in detail the early history of Madeline Stanhope.
She had gone to Italy when about seventeen years of age and had been
allowed to make the most of her surpassing beauty in the salons of
Milan and among the crowded villas along the shores of the Lake of
Como. She had become famous for adventures in which her character
was just not lost and had destroyed the hearts of a dozen cavaliers
without once being touched in her own. Blood had flowed in quarrels
about her charms, and she had heard of these encounters with
pleasurable excitement. It had been told of her that on one occasion
she had stood by in the disguise of a page and had seen her lover
As is so often the case, she had married the very worst of those who
sought her hand. Why she had chosen Paulo Neroni, a man of no birth
and no property, a mere captain in the Pope's guard, one who had come
up to Milan either simply as an adventurer or else as a spy, a man of
harsh temper and oily manners, mean in figure, swarthy in face, and
so false in words as to be hourly detected, need not now be told.
When the moment for doing so came, she had probably no alternative.
He, at any rate, had become her husband, and after a prolonged
honeymoon among the lakes, they had gone together to Rome, the papal
captain having vainly endeavoured to induce his wife to remain behind
Six months afterwards she arrived at her father's house a cripple,
and a mother. She had arrived without even notice, with hardly
clothes to cover her, and without one of those many ornaments which
had graced her bridal trousseau. Her baby was in the arms of a poor
girl from Milan, whom she had taken in exchange for the Roman maid
who had accompanied her thus far, and who had then, as her mistress
said, become homesick and had returned. It was clear that the lady
had determined that there should be no witness to tell stories of her
life in Rome.
She had fallen, she said, in ascending a ruin, and had fatally
injured the sinews of her knee; so fatally that when she stood, she
lost eight inches of her accustomed height; so fatally that when she
essayed to move, she could only drag herself painfully along, with
protruded hip and extended foot, in a manner less graceful than that
of a hunchback. She had consequently made up her mind, once and
forever, that she would never stand and never attempt to move
Stories were not slow to follow her, averring that she had been
cruelly ill-used by Neroni and that to his violence had she owed her
accident. Be that as it may, little had been said about her husband,
but that little had made it clearly intelligible to the family that
Signor Neroni was to be seen and heard of no more. There was no
question as to readmitting the poor, ill-used beauty to her old
family rights, no question as to adopting her infant daughter beneath
the Stanhope roof-tree. Though heartless, the Stanhopes were not
selfish. The two were taken in, petted, made much of, for a time all
but adored, and then felt by the two parents to be great nuisances in
the house. But in the house the lady was, and there she remained,
having her own way, though that way was not very conformable with the
customary usages of an English clergyman.
Madame Neroni, though forced to give up all motion in the world, had
no intention whatever of giving up the world itself. The beauty of
her face was uninjured, and that beauty was of a peculiar kind. Her
copious rich brown hair was worn in Grecian bandeaux round her head,
displaying as much as possible of her forehead and cheeks. Her
forehead, though rather low, was very beautiful from its perfect
contour and pearly whiteness. Her eyes were long and large and
marvellously bright; might I venture to say bright as Lucifer's, I
should perhaps best express the depth of their brilliancy. They were
dreadful eyes to look at, such as would absolutely deter any man of
quiet mind and easy spirit from attempting a passage of arms with
such foes. There was talent in them, and the fire of passion and the
play of wit, but there was no love. Cruelty was there instead, and
courage, a desire of masterhood, cunning, and a wish for mischief.
And yet, as eyes, they were very beautiful. The eyelashes were long
and perfect, and the long, steady, unabashed gaze with which she
would look into the face of her admirer fascinated while it
frightened him. She was a basilisk from whom an ardent lover of
beauty could make no escape. Her nose and mouth and teeth and chin
and neck and bust were perfect, much more so at twenty-eight than
they had been at eighteen. What wonder that with such charms still
glowing in her face, and with such deformity destroying her figure,
she should resolve to be seen, but only to be seen reclining on a
Her resolve had not been carried out without difficulty. She had
still frequented the opera at Milan; she had still been seen
occasionally in the salons of the noblesse; she had caused herself to
be carried in and out from her carriage, and that in such a manner as
in no wise to disturb her charms, disarrange her dress, or expose her
deformities. Her sister always accompanied her and a maid, a
manservant also, and on state occasions, two. It was impossible that
her purpose could have been achieved with less; and yet, poor as she
was, she had achieved her purpose. And then again the more dissolute
Italian youths of Milan frequented the Stanhope villa and surrounded
her couch, not greatly to her father's satisfaction. Sometimes his
spirit would rise, a dark spot would show itself on his cheek, and he
would rebel, but Charlotte would assuage him with some peculiar
triumph of her culinary art and all again would be smooth for awhile.
Madeline affected all manner of rich and quaint devices in the
garniture of her room, her person, and her feminine belongings. In
nothing was this more apparent than in the visiting card which she
had prepared for her use. For such an article one would say that
she, in her present state, could have but small need, seeing how
improbable it was that she should make a morning call: but not such
was her own opinion. Her card was surrounded by a deep border of
gilding; on this she had imprinted, in three lines
La Signora Madeline
And over the name she had a bright gilt coronet, which certainly
looked very magnificent. How she had come to concoct such a name for
herself it would be difficult to explain. Her father had been
christened Vesey as another man is christened Thomas, and she had no
more right to assume it than would have the daughter of a Mr. Josiah
Jones to call herself Mrs. Josiah Smith, on marrying a man of the
latter name. The gold coronet was equally out of place and perhaps
inserted with even less excuse. Paulo Neroni had had not the
faintest title to call himself a scion of even Italian nobility. Had
the pair met in England Neroni would probably have been a count, but
they had met in Italy, and any such pretence on his part would have
been simply ridiculous. A coronet, however, was a pretty ornament,
and if it could solace a poor cripple to have such on her card, who
would begrudge it to her?
Of her husband, or of his individual family, she never spoke, but
with her admirers she would often allude in a mysterious way to her
married life and isolated state and, pointing to her daughter, would
call her the last of the blood of the emperors, thus referring
Neroni's extraction to the old Roman family from which the worst of
the Caesars sprang.
The "signora" was not without talent and not without a certain sort
of industry; she was an indomitable letter-writer, and her letters
were worth the postage: they were full of wit, mischief, satire,
love, latitudinarian philosophy, free religion, and, sometimes, alas,
loose ribaldry. The subject, however, depended entirely on the
recipient, and she was prepared to correspond with anyone but moral
young ladies or stiff old women. She wrote also a kind of poetry,
generally in Italian, and short romances, generally in French. She
read much of a desultory sort of literature and as a modern linguist
had really made great proficiency. Such was the lady who had now
come to wound the hearts of the men of Barchester.
Ethelbert Stanhope was in some respects like his younger sister, but
he was less inestimable as a man than she as a woman. His great
fault was an entire absence of that principle which should have
induced him, as the son of a man without fortune, to earn his own
bread. Many attempts had been made to get him to do so, but these
had all been frustrated, not so much by idleness on his part as by a
disinclination to exert himself in any way not to his taste. He had
been educated at Eton and had been intended for the Church, but he
had left Cambridge in disgust after a single term and notified to his
father his intention to study for the bar. Preparatory to that, he
thought it well that he should attend a German university, and
consequently went to Leipzig. There he remained two years and
brought away a knowledge of German and a taste for the fine arts. He
still, however, intended himself for the bar, took chambers, engaged
himself to sit at the feet of a learned pundit, and spent a season in
London. He there found that all his aptitudes inclined him to the
life of an artist, and he determined to live by painting. With this
object he returned to Milan, and had himself rigged out for Rome. As
a painter he might have earned his bread, for he wanted only
diligence to excel, but when at Rome his mind was carried away by
other things: he soon wrote home for money, saying that he had been
converted to the Mother Church, that he was already an acolyte of the
Jesuits, and that he was about to start with others to Palestine on a
mission for converting Jews. He did go to Judea, but being unable to
convert the Jews, was converted by them. He again wrote home, to say
that Moses was the only giver of perfect laws to the world, that the
coming of the true Messiah was at hand, that great things were doing
in Palestine, and that he had met one of the family of Sidonia, a
most remarkable man, who was now on his way to western Europe, and
whom he had induced to deviate from his route with the object of
calling at the Stanhope villa. Ethelbert then expressed his hope
that his mother and sisters would listen to this wonderful prophet.
His father he knew could not do so from pecuniary considerations.
This Sidonia, however, did not take so strong a fancy to him as
another of that family once did to a young English nobleman. At
least he provided him with no heaps of gold as large as lions, so
that the Judaized Ethelbert was again obliged to draw on the revenues
of the Christian Church.
It is needless to tell how the father swore that he would send no
more money and receive no Jew, nor how Charlotte declared that
Ethelbert could not be left penniless in Jerusalem, and how "La
Signora Neroni" resolved to have Sidonia at her feet. The money was
sent, and the Jew did come. The Jew did come, but he was not at all
to the taste of "La Signora." He was a dirty little old man, and
though he had provided no golden lions, he had, it seems, relieved
young Stanhope's necessities. He positively refused to leave the
villa till he had got a bill from the doctor on his London bankers.
Ethelbert did not long remain a Jew. He soon reappeared at the villa
without prejudices on the subject of his religion and with a firm
resolve to achieve fame and fortune as a sculptor. He brought with
him some models which he had originated at Rome and which really gave
such fair promise that his father was induced to go to further
expense in furthering these views. Ethelbert opened an
establishment, or rather took lodgings and a workshop, at Carrara,
and there spoilt much marble and made some few pretty images. Since
that period, now four years ago, he had alternated between Carrara
and the villa, but his sojourns at the workshop became shorter and
shorter and those at the villa longer and longer. 'Twas no wonder,
for Carrara is not a spot in which an Englishman would like to dwell.
When the family started for England, he had resolved not to be left
behind and, with the assistance of his elder sister, had carried his
point against his father's wishes. It was necessary, he said, that
he should come to England for orders. How otherwise was he to bring
his profession to account?
In personal appearance Ethelbert Stanhope was the most singular of
beings. He was certainly very handsome. He had his sister
Madeline's eyes, without their stare and without their hard, cunning,
cruel firmness. They were also very much lighter and of so light and
clear a blue as to make his face remarkable, if nothing else did so.
On entering a room with him, Ethelbert's blue eyes would be the first
thing you would see, and on leaving it almost the last you would
forget. His light hair was very long and silky, coming down over his
coat. His beard had been prepared in holy land, and was patriarchal.
He never shaved and rarely trimmed it. It was glossy, soft, clean,
and altogether not unprepossessing. It was such that ladies might
desire to reel it off and work it into their patterns in lieu of
floss silk. His complexion was fair and almost pink; he was small in
height and slender in limb, but well-made; and his voice was of
In manner and dress he was equally remarkable. He had none of the
mauvaise honte of an Englishman. He required no introduction to make
himself agreeable to any person. He habitually addressed strangers,
ladies as well as men, without any such formality, and in doing so
never seemed to meet with rebuke. His costume cannot be described
because it was so various, but it was always totally opposed in every
principle of colour and construction to the dress of those with whom
he for the time consorted.
He was habitually addicted to making love to ladies, and did so
without any scruples of conscience, or any idea that such a practice
was amiss. He had no heart to touch himself, and was literally
unaware that humanity was subject to such an infliction. He had not
thought much about it, but, had he been asked, would have said that
ill-treating a lady's heart meant injuring her promotion in the
world. His principles therefore forbade him to pay attention to a
girl if he thought any man was present whom it might suit her to
marry. In this manner his good nature frequently interfered with his
amusement, but he had no other motive in abstaining from the fullest
declarations of love to every girl that pleased his eye.
Bertie Stanhope, as he was generally called, was, however, popular
with both sexes--and with Italians as well as English. His circle of
acquaintance was very large and embraced people of all sorts. He had
no respect for rank and no aversion to those below him. He had lived
on familiar terms with English peers, German shopkeepers, and Roman
priests. All people were nearly alike to him. He was above, or
rather below, all prejudices. No virtue could charm him, no vice
shock him. He had about him a natural good manner, which seemed to
qualify him for the highest circles, and yet he was never out of
place in the lowest. He had no principle, no regard for others, no
self-respect, no desire to be other than a drone in the hive, if only
he could, as a drone, get what honey was sufficient for him. Of
honey, in his latter days, it may probably be presaged, that he will
have but short allowance.
Such was the family of the Stanhopes, who, at this period, suddenly
joined themselves to the ecclesiastical circle of Barchester close.
Any stranger union it would be impossible perhaps to conceive. And
it was not as though they all fell down into the cathedral precincts
hitherto unknown and untalked of. In such case, no amalgamation
would have been at all probable between the new-comers and either the
Proudie set or the Grantly set. But such was far from being the
case. The Stanhopes were all known by name in Barchester, and
Barchester was prepared to receive them with open arms. The doctor
was one of her prebendaries, one of her rectors, one of her pillars
of strength; and was, moreover, counted on as a sure ally both by
Proudies and Grantlys.
He himself was the brother of one peer, and his wife was the sister
of another--and both these peers were lords of Whiggish tendency,
with whom the new bishop had some sort of alliance. This was
sufficient to give to Mr. Slope high hope that he might enlist Dr.
Stanhope on his side, before his enemies could outmanoeuvre him. On
the other hand, the old dean had many many years ago, in the days of
the doctor's clerical energies, been instrumental in assisting him in
his views as to preferment; and many many years ago also, the two
doctors, Stanhope and Grantly, had, as young parsons, been joyous
together in the common-rooms of Oxford. Dr. Grantly, consequently,
did not doubt but that the newcomer would range himself under his
Little did any of them dream of what ingredients the Stanhope family
was now composed.
Mrs. Proudie's Reception--Commenced
The bishop and his wife had spent only three or four days in
Barchester on the occasion of their first visit. His lordship had,
as we have seen, taken his seat on his throne, but his demeanour
there, into which it had been his intention to infuse much hierarchal
dignity, had been a good deal disarranged by the audacity of his
chaplain's sermon. He had hardly dared to look his clergy in the
face and to declare by the severity of his countenance that in truth
he meant all that his factotum was saying on his behalf, nor yet did
he dare to throw Mr. Slope over, and show to those around him that he
was no party to the sermon, and would resent it.
He had accordingly blessed his people in a shambling manner, not at
all to his own satisfaction, and had walked back to his palace with
his mind very doubtful as to what he would say to his chaplain on the
subject. He did not remain long in doubt. He had hardly doffed his
lawn when the partner of all his toils entered his study and
exclaimed even before she had seated herself:
"Bishop, did you ever hear a more sublime, more spirit-moving, more
appropriate discourse than that?"
"Well, my love; ha--hum--he!" The bishop did not know what to say.
"I hope, my lord, you don't mean to say you disapprove?"
There was a look about the lady's eye which did not admit of my
lord's disapproving at that moment. He felt that if he intended to
disapprove, it must be now or never, but he also felt that it could
not be now. It was not in him to say to the wife of his bosom that
Mr. Slope's sermon was ill-timed, impertinent, and vexatious.
"No, no," replied the bishop. "No, I can't say I disapprove--a very
clever sermon and very well intended, and I dare say will do a great
deal of good." This last praise was added, seeing that what he had
already said by no means satisfied Mrs. Proudie.
"I hope it will," said she. "And I am sure it was well deserved.
Did you ever in your life, bishop, hear anything so like play-acting
as the way in which Mr. Harding sings the litany? I shall beg Mr.
Slope to continue a course of sermons on the subject till all that is
altered. We will have at any rate in our cathedral a decent, godly,
modest morning service. There must be no more play-acting here now;"
and so the lady rang for lunch.
The bishop knew more about cathedrals and deans and precentors and
church services than his wife did, and also more of a bishop's
powers. But he thought it better at present to let the subject drop.
"My dear," said he, "I think we must go back to London on Tuesday.
I find my staying here will be very inconvenient to the Government."
The bishop knew that to this proposal his wife would not object, and
he also felt that by thus retreating from the ground of battle the
heat of the fight might be got over in his absence.
"Mr. Slope will remain here, of course?" said the lady.
"Oh, of course," said the bishop.
Thus, after less than a week's sojourn in his palace, did the bishop
fly from Barchester; nor did he return to it for two months, the
London season being then over. During that time Mr. Slope was not
idle, but he did not again essay to preach in the cathedral. In
answer to Mrs. Proudie's letters advising a course of sermons, he had
pleaded that he would at any rate wish to put off such an undertaking
till she was there to hear them.
He had employed his time in consolidating a Proudie and Slope party--
or rather a Slope and Proudie party, and he had not employed his time
in vain. He did not meddle with the dean and chapter, except by
giving them little teasing intimations of the bishop's wishes about
this and the bishop's feelings about that, in a manner which was to
them sufficiently annoying, but which they could not resent. He
preached once or twice in a distant church in the suburbs of the city
but made no allusion to the cathedral service. He commenced the
establishment of two "Bishop's Barchester Sabbath-day schools," gave
notice of a proposed "Bishop's Barchester Young Men's Sabbath Evening
Lecture Room," and wrote three or four letters to the manager of the
Barchester branch railway, informing him how anxious the bishop was
that the Sunday trains should be discontinued.
At the end of two months, however, the bishop and the lady
reappeared, and as a happy harbinger of their return, heralded their
advent by the promise of an evening party on the largest scale. The
tickets of invitation were sent out from London--they were dated from
Bruton Street and were dispatched by the odious Sabbath-breaking
railway, in a huge brown paper parcel to Mr. Slope. Everybody
calling himself a gentleman, or herself a lady, within the city of
Barchester, and a circle of two miles round it, was included.
Tickets were sent to all the diocesan clergy, and also to many other
persons of priestly note, of whose absence the bishop, or at least
the bishop's wife, felt tolerably confident. It was intended,
however, to be a thronged and noticeable affair, and preparations
were made for receiving some hundreds.
And now there arose considerable agitation among the Grantlyites
whether or no they would attend the episcopal bidding. The first
feeling with them all was to send the briefest excuses both for
themselves and their wives and daughters. But by degrees policy
prevailed over passion. The archdeacon perceived that he would be
making a false step if he allowed the cathedral clergy to give the
bishop just ground of umbrage. They all met in conclave and agreed
to go. They would show that they were willing to respect the office,
much as they might dislike the man. They agreed to go. The old dean
would crawl in, if it were but for half an hour. The chancellor,
treasurer, archdeacon, prebendaries, and minor canons would all go
and would all take their wives. Mr. Harding was especially bidden to
do so, resolving in his heart to keep himself far removed from Mrs.
Proudie. And Mrs. Bold was determined to go, though assured by her
father that there was no necessity for such a sacrifice on her part.
When all Barchester was to be there, neither Eleanor nor Mary Bold
understood why they should stay away. Had they not been invited
separately? And had not a separate little note from the chaplain,
couched in the most respectful language, been enclosed with the huge
And the Stanhopes would be there, one and all. Even the lethargic
mother would so far bestir herself on such an occasion. They had
only just arrived. The card was at the residence waiting for them.
No one in Barchester had seen them. What better opportunity could
they have of showing themselves to the Barchester world? Some few
old friends, such as the archdeacon and his wife, had called and had
found the doctor and his eldest daughter, but the élite of the family
were not yet known.
The doctor indeed wished in his heart to prevent the signora from
accepting the bishop's invitation, but she herself had fully
determined that she would accept it. If her father was ashamed of
having his daughter carried into a bishop's palace, she had no such
"Indeed, I shall," she had said to her sister who had gently
endeavoured to dissuade her, by saying that the company would consist
wholly of parsons and parsons' wives. "Parsons, I suppose, are much
the same as other men, if you strip them of their black coats; and as
to their wives, I dare say they won't trouble me. You may tell Papa
I don't at all mean to be left at home."
Papa was told, and felt that he could do nothing but yield. He also
felt that it was useless for him now to be ashamed of his children.
Such as they were, they had become such under his auspices; as he had
made his bed, so he must lie upon it; as he had sown his seed, so
must he reap his corn. He did not indeed utter such reflexions in
such language, but such was the gist of his thought. It was not
because Madeline was a cripple that he shrank from seeing her made
one of the bishop's guests, but because he knew that she would
practise her accustomed lures and behave herself in a way that could
not fail of being distasteful to the propriety of Englishwomen.
These things had annoyed but not shocked him in Italy. There they
had shocked no one, but here in Barchester, here among his fellow
parsons, he was ashamed that they should be seen. Such had been his
feelings, but he repressed them. What if his brother clergymen were
shocked! They could not take from him his preferment because the
manners of his married daughter were too free.
La Signora Neroni had, at any rate, no fear that she would shock
anybody. Her ambition was to create a sensation, to have parsons at
her feet, seeing that the manhood of Barchester consisted mainly of
parsons, and to send, if possible, every parson's wife home with a
green fit of jealousy. None could be too old for her, and hardly any
too young. None too sanctified, and none too worldly. She was quite
prepared to entrap the bishop himself and then to turn up her nose at
the bishop's wife. She did not doubt of success, for she had always
succeeded; but one thing was absolutely necessary; she must secure
the entire use of a sofa.
The card sent to Dr. and Mrs. Stanhope and family had been so sent in
an envelope having on the cover Mr. Slope's name. The signora soon
learnt that Mrs. Proudie was not yet at the palace and that the
chaplain was managing everything. It was much more in her line to
apply to him than to the lady, and she accordingly wrote him the
prettiest little billet in the world. In five lines she explained
everything, declared how impossible it was for her not to be desirous
to make the acquaintance of such persons as the Bishop of Barchester
and his wife, and she might add also of Mr. Slope, depicted her own
grievous state, and concluded by being assured that Mrs. Proudie
would forgive her extreme hardihood in petitioning to be allowed to
be carried to a sofa. She then enclosed one of her beautiful cards.
In return she received as polite an answer from Mr. Slope--a sofa
should be kept in the large drawing-room, immediately at the top of
the grand stairs, especially for her use.
And now the day of the party had arrived. The bishop and his wife
came down from town only on the morning of the eventful day, as
behoved such great people to do, but Mr. Slope had toiled day and
night to see that everything should be in right order. There had
been much to do. No company had been seen in the palace since heaven
knows when. New furniture had been required, new pots and pans, new
cups and saucers, new dishes and plates. Mrs. Proudie had at first
declared that she would condescend to nothing so vulgar as eating and
drinking, but Mr. Slope had talked, or rather written her out of
economy. Bishops should be given to hospitality, and hospitality
meant eating and drinking. So the supper was conceded; the guests,
however, were to stand as they consumed it.
There were four rooms opening into each other on the first floor of
the house, which were denominated the drawing-rooms, the reception-
room, and Mrs. Proudie's boudoir. In olden days one of these had
been Bishop Grantly's bedroom, and another his common sitting-room
and study. The present bishop, however, had been moved down into a
back parlour and had been given to understand that he could very well
receive his clergy in the dining-room, should they arrive in too
large a flock to be admitted into his small sanctum. He had been
unwilling to yield, but after a short debate had yielded.
Mrs. Proudie's heart beat high as she inspected her suite of rooms.
They were really very magnificent, or at least would be so by
candlelight, and they had nevertheless been got up with commendable
economy. Large rooms when full of people and full of light look
well, because they are large, and are full, and are light. Small
rooms are those which require costly fittings and rich furniture.
Mrs. Proudie knew this and made the most of it; she had therefore a
huge gas lamp with a dozen burners hanging from each of the ceilings.
People were to arrive at ten, supper was to last from twelve till
one, and at half-past one everybody was to be gone. Carriages were
to come in at the gate in the town and depart at the gate outside.
They were desired to take up at a quarter before one. It was managed
excellently, and Mr. Slope was invaluable.
At half-past nine the bishop and his wife and their three daughters
entered the great reception-room, and very grand and very solemn they
were. Mr. Slope was downstairs giving the last orders about the
wine. He well understood that curates and country vicars with their
belongings did not require so generous an article as the dignitaries
of the close. There is a useful gradation in such things, and
Marsala at 20s. a dozen did very well for the exterior supplementary
tables in the corner.
"Bishop," said the lady, as his lordship sat himself down, "don't sit
on that sofa, if you please; it is to be kept separate for a lady."
The bishop jumped up and seated himself on a cane-bottomed chair.
"A lady?" he inquired meekly; "do you mean one particular lady, my
"Yes, Bishop, one particular lady," said his wife, disdaining to
"She has got no legs, Papa," said the youngest daughter, tittering.
"No legs!" said the bishop, opening his eyes.
"Nonsense, Netta, what stuff you talk," said Olivia. "She has got
legs, but she can't use them. She has always to be kept lying down,
and three or four men carry her about everywhere."
"Laws, how odd!" said Augusta. "Always carried about by four men!
I'm sure I shouldn't like it. Am I right behind, Mamma? I feel as
if I was open;" and she turned her back to her anxious parent.
"Open! To be sure you are," said she, "and a yard of petticoat
strings hanging out. I don't know why I pay such high wages to Mrs.
Richards if she can't take the trouble to see whether or no you are
fit to be looked at," and Mrs. Proudie poked the strings here, and
twitched the dress there, and gave her daughter a shove and a shake,
and then pronounced it all right.
"But," rejoined the bishop, who was dying with curiosity about the
mysterious lady and her legs, "who is it that is to have the sofa?
What's her name, Netta?"
A thundering rap at the front door interrupted the conversation.
Mrs. Proudie stood up and shook herself gently and touched her cap on
each side as she looked in the mirror. Each of the girls stood on
tiptoe and rearranged the bows on their bosoms, and Mr. Slope rushed
upstairs three steps at a time.
"But who is it, Netta?" whispered the bishop to his youngest
"La Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni," whispered back the daughter;
"and mind you don't let anyone sit upon the sofa."
"La Signora Madeline Vicinironi!" muttered to himself the bewildered
prelate. Had he been told that the Begum of Oude was to be there, or
Queen Pomara of the Western Isles, he could not have been more
astonished. La Signora Madeline Vicinironi, who, having no legs to
stand on, had bespoken a sofa in his drawing-room! Who could she be?
He however could now make no further inquiry, as Dr. and Mrs.
Stanhope were announced. They had been sent on out of the way a
little before the time, in order that the signora might have plenty
of time to get herself conveniently packed into the carriage.
The bishop was all smiles for the prebendary's wife, and the bishop's
wife was all smiles for the prebendary. Mr. Slope was presented and
was delighted to make the acquaintance of one of whom he had heard so
much. The doctor bowed very low, and then looked as though he could
not return the compliment as regarded Mr. Slope, of whom, indeed, he
had heard nothing. The doctor, in spite of his long absence, knew an
English gentleman when he saw him.
And then the guests came in shoals: Mr. and Mrs. Quiverful and their
three grown daughters. Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick and their three
daughters. The burly chancellor and his wife and clerical son from
Oxford. The meagre little doctor without incumbrance. Mr. Harding
with Eleanor and Miss Bold. The dean leaning on a gaunt spinster,
his only child now living with him, a lady very learned in stones,
ferns, plants, and vermin, and who had written a book about petals.
A wonderful woman in her way was Miss Trefoil. Mr. Finnie, the
attorney, with his wife, was to be seen, much to the dismay of many
who had never met him in a drawing-room before. The five Barchester
doctors were all there, and old Scalpen, the retired apothecary and
tooth-drawer, who was first taught to consider himself as belonging
to the higher orders by the receipt of the bishop's card. Then came
the archdeacon and his wife with their elder daughter Griselda, a
slim, pale, retiring girl of seventeen who kept close to her mother
and looked out on the world with quiet watchful eyes, one who gave
promise of much beauty when time should have ripened it.
And so the rooms became full, and knots were formed, and every
newcomer paid his respects to my lord and passed on, not presuming to
occupy too much of the great man's attention. The archdeacon shook
hands very heartily with Dr. Stanhope, and Mrs. Grantly seated
herself by the doctor's wife. And Mrs. Proudie moved about with
well-regulated grace, measuring out the quantity of her favours to
the quality of her guests, just as Mr. Slope had been doing with the
wine. But the sofa was still empty, and five-and-twenty ladies and
five gentlemen had been courteously warned off it by the mindful
"Why doesn't she come?" said the bishop to himself. His mind was so
preoccupied with the signora that he hardly remembered how to behave
himself en bishop.
At last a carriage dashed up to the hall steps with a very different
manner of approach from that of any other vehicle that had been there
that evening. A perfect commotion took place. The doctor, who heard
it as he was standing in the drawing-room, knew that his daughter was
coming and retired into the furthest corner, where he might not see
her entrance. Mrs. Proudie perked herself up, feeling that some
important piece of business was in hand. The bishop was
instinctively aware that La Signora Vicinironi was come at last, and
Mr. Slope hurried into the hall to give his assistance.
He was, however, nearly knocked down and trampled on by the cortège
that he encountered on the hall steps. He got himself picked up, as
well as he could, and followed the cortège upstairs. The signora was
carried head foremost, her head being the care of her brother and an
Italian manservant who was accustomed to the work; her feet were in
the care of the lady's maid and the lady's Italian page; and
Charlotte Stanhope followed to see that all was done with due grace
and decorum. In this manner they climbed easily into the drawing-
room, and a broad way through the crowd having been opened, the
signora rested safely on her couch. She had sent a servant
beforehand to learn whether it was a right- or a left-hand sofa, for
it required that she should dress accordingly, particularly as
regarded her bracelets.
And very becoming her dress was. It was white velvet, without any
other garniture than rich white lace worked with pearls across her
bosom, and the same round the armlets of her dress. Across her brow
she wore a band of red velvet, on the centre of which shone a
magnificent Cupid in mosaic, the tints of whose wings were of the
most lovely azure, and the colour of his chubby cheeks the clearest
pink. On the one arm which her position required her to expose she
wore three magnificent bracelets, each of different stones. Beneath
her on the sofa, and over the cushion and head of it, was spread a
crimson silk mantle or shawl, which went under her whole body and
concealed her feet. Dressed as she was and looking as she did, so
beautiful and yet so motionless, with the pure brilliancy of her
white dress brought out and strengthened by the colour beneath it,
with that lovely head, and those large, bold, bright, staring eyes,
it was impossible that either man or woman should do other than look
Neither man nor woman for some minutes did do other.
Her bearers too were worthy of note. The three servants were
Italian, and though perhaps not peculiar in their own country, were
very much so in the palace at Barchester. The man especially
attracted notice and created a doubt in the mind of some whether he
were a friend or a domestic. The same doubt was felt as to
Ethelbert. The man was attired in a loose-fitting, common, black-
cloth morning-coat. He had a jaunty, fat, well-pleased, clean face
on which no atom of beard appeared, and be wore round his neck a
loose, black silk neck-handkerchief. The bishop essayed to make him
a bow, but the man, who was well trained, took no notice of him and
walked out of the room quite at his ease, followed by the woman and
Ethelbert Stanhope was dressed in light blue from head to foot. He
had on the loosest possible blue coat, cut square like a shooting
coat, and very short. It was lined with silk of azure blue. He had
on a blue satin waistcoat, a blue neck-handkerchief which was
fastened beneath his throat with a coral ring, and very loose blue
trousers which almost concealed his feet. His soft, glossy beard was
softer and more glossy than ever.
The bishop, who had made one mistake, thought that he also was a
servant and therefore tried to make way for him to pass. But
Ethelbert soon corrected the error.
Mrs. Proudie's Reception--Concluded
"Bishop of Barchester, I presume?" said Bertie Stanhope, putting out
his hand frankly; "I am delighted to make your acquaintance. We are
in rather close quarters here, a'nt we?"
In truth they were. They had been crowded up behind the head of the
sofa--the bishop in waiting to receive his guest, and the other in
carrying her--and they now had hardly room to move themselves.
The bishop gave his hand quickly, made his little studied bow, and
was delighted to make--He couldn't go on, for he did not know whether
his friend was a signor, or a count or a prince.
"My sister really puts you all to great trouble," said Bertie.
"Not at all!" The bishop was delighted to have the opportunity of
welcoming La Signora Vicinironi--so at least he said--and attempted
to force his way round to the front of the sofa. He had, at any
rate, learnt that his strange guests were brother and sister. The
man, he presumed, must be Signor Vicinironi--or count, or prince, as
it might be. It was wonderful what good English he spoke. There was
just a twang of foreign accent, and no more.
"Do you like Barchester, on the whole?" asked Bertie.
The bishop, looking dignified, said that he did like Barchester.
"You've not been here very long, I believe," said Bertie.
"No--not long," said the bishop and tried again to make his way
between the back of the sofa and heavy rector, who was staring over
it at the grimaces of the signora.
"You weren't a bishop before, were you?"
Dr. Proudie explained that this was the first diocese he had held.
"Ah--I thought so," said Bertie, "but you are changed about
sometimes, a'nt you?"
'Translations are occasionally made," said Dr. Proudie, "but not so
frequently as in former days."
"They've cut them all down to pretty nearly the same figure, haven't
they?" said Bertie.
To this the bishop could not bring himself to make any answer, but
again attempted to move the rector.
"But the work, I suppose, is different?" continued Bertie. "Is there
much to do here, at Barchester?" This was said exactly in the tone
that a young Admiralty clerk might use in asking the same question of
a brother acolyte at the Treasury.
"The work of a bishop of the Church of England," said Dr. Proudie
with considerable dignity, "is not easy. The responsibility which he
has to bear is very great indeed."
"Is it?" said Bertie, opening wide his wonderful blue eyes. "Well, I
never was afraid of responsibility. I once had thoughts of being a
"Had thoughts of being a bishop!" said Dr. Proudie, much amazed.
That is, a parson--a parson first, you know, and a bishop afterwards.
If I had once begun, I'd have stuck to it. But, on the whole, I like
the Church of Rome the best."
The bishop could not discuss the point, so he remained silent.
"Now, there's my father," continued Bertie; "he hasn't stuck to it.
I fancy he didn't like saying the same thing over so often. By the
by, Bishop, have you seen my father?"
The bishop was more amazed than ever. Had he seen his father? "No,"
he replied; he had not yet had the pleasure: he hoped he might; and,
as he said so, he resolved to bear heavy on that fat, immovable
rector, if ever he had the power of doing so.
"He's in the room somewhere," said Bertie, "and he'll turn up soon.
By the by, do you know much about the Jews?"
At last the bishop saw a way out. "I beg your pardon," said he, "but
I'm forced to go round the room."
"Well--I believe I'll follow in your wake," said Bertie. "Terribly
hot--isn't it?" This he addressed to the fat rector with whom he had
brought himself into the closest contact. "They've got this sofa
into the worst possible part of the room; suppose we move it. Take
The sofa had certainly been so placed that those who were behind it
found great difficulty in getting out; there was but a narrow
gangway, which one person could stop. This was a bad arrangement,
and one which Bertie thought it might be well to improve.
"Take care, Madeline," said he, and turning to the fat rector, added,
"Just help me with a slight push."
The rector's weight was resting on the sofa and unwittingly lent all
its impetus to accelerate and increase the motion which Bertie
intentionally originated. The sofa rushed from its moorings and ran
half-way into the middle of the room. Mrs. Proudie was standing with
Mr. Slope in front of the signora, and had been trying to be
condescending and sociable; but she was not in the very best of
tempers, for she found that, whenever she spoke to the lady, the lady
replied by speaking to Mr. Slope. Mr. Slope was a favourite, no
doubt, but Mrs. Proudie had no idea of being less thought of than the
chaplain. She was beginning to be stately, stiff, and offended, when
unfortunately the castor of the sofa caught itself in her lace train
and carried away there is no saying how much of her garniture.
Gathers were heard to go, stitches to crack, plaits to fly open,
flounces were seen to fall, and breadths to expose themselves; a long
ruin of rent lace disfigured the carpet and still clung to the vile
wheel on which the sofa moved.
So, when a granite battery is raised, excellent to the eyes of
warfaring men, is its strength and symmetry admired. It is the work
of years. Its neat embrasures, its finished parapets, its casemated
stories show all the skill of modern science. But, anon, a small
spark is applied to the treacherous fusee--a cloud of dust arises to
the heavens--and then nothing is to be seen but dirt and dust and
We know what was the wrath of Juno when her beauty was despised. We
know to what storms of passion even celestial minds can yield. As
Juno may have looked at Paris on Mount Ida, so did Mrs. Proudie look
on Ethelbert Stanhope when he pushed the leg of the sofa into her
"Oh, you idiot, Bertie!" said the signora, seeing what had been done
and what were to be the consequences.
"Idiot!" re-echoed Mrs. Proudie, as though the word were not half
strong enough to express the required meaning; "I'll let him know--"
and then looking round to learn, at a glance, the worst, she saw that
at present it behoved her to collect the scattered débris of her
Bertie, when he saw what he had done, rushed over the sofa and threw
himself on one knee before the offended lady. His object, doubtless,
was to liberate the torn lace from the castor, but he looked as
though he were imploring pardon from a goddess.
"Unhand it, sir!" said Mrs. Proudie. From what scrap of dramatic
poetry she had extracted the word cannot be said, but it must have
rested on her memory and now seemed opportunely dignified for the
"I'll fly to the looms of the fairies to repair the damage, if you'll
only forgive me," said Ethelbert, still on his knees.
"Unhand it, sir!" said Mrs. Proudie with redoubled emphasis and all
but furious wrath. This allusion to the fairies was a direct mockery
and intended to turn her into ridicule. So at least it seemed to
her. "Unhand it, sir!" she almost screamed.
"It's not me; it's the cursed sofa," said Bertie, looking imploringly
in her face and holding up both his hands to show that he was not
touching her belongings, but still remaining on his knees.
Hereupon the Signora laughed; not loud, indeed, but yet audibly. And
as the tigress bereft of her young will turn with equal anger on any
within reach, so did Mrs. Proudie turn upon her female guest.
"Madam!" she said--and it is beyond the power of prose to tell of the
fire which flashed from her eyes.
The signora stared her full in the face for a moment, and then
turning to her brother said playfully, "Bertie, you idiot, get up."
By this time the bishop, and Mr. Slope, and her three daughters were
around her, and had collected together the wide ruins of her
magnificence. The girls fell into circular rank behind their mother,
and thus following her and carrying out the fragments, they left the
reception-rooms in a manner not altogether devoid of dignity. Mrs.
Proudie had to retire and re-array herself.
As soon as the constellation had swept by, Ethelbert rose from his
knees and, turning with mock anger to the fat rector, said: "After
all it was your doing, sir--not mine. But perhaps you are waiting
for preferment, and so I bore it."
Whereupon there was a laugh against the fat rector, in which both the
bishop and the chaplain joined, and thus things got themselves again
"Oh! my lord, I am so sorry for this accident," said the signora
putting out her hand so as to force the bishop to take it. "My
brother is so thoughtless. Pray sit down and let me have the
pleasure of making your acquaintance. Though I am so poor a creature
as to want a sofa, I am not so selfish as to require it all."
Madeline could always dispose herself so as to make room for a
gentleman, though, as she declared, the crinoline of her lady friends
was much too bulky to be so accommodated.
"It was solely for the pleasure of meeting you that I have had myself
dragged here," she continued. "Of course, with your occupation, one
cannot even hope that you should have time to come to us, that is, in
the way of calling. And at your English dinner-parties all is so
dull and so stately. Do you know, my lord, that in coming to England
my only consolation has been the thought that I should know you;" and
she looked at him with the look of a she-devil.
The bishop, however, thought that she looked very like an angel and,
accepting the proffered seat, sat down beside her. He uttered some
platitude as to his deep obligation for the trouble she had taken and
wondered more and more who she was.
"Of course you know my sad story?" she continued.
The bishop didn't know a word of it. He knew, however, or thought he
knew that she couldn't walk into a room like other people, and so
made the most of that. He put on a look of ineffable distress and
said that he was aware how God had afflicted her.
The signora just touched the corner of her eyes with the most lovely
of pocket-handkerchiefs. Yes, she said--she had been sorely tried--
tried, she thought, beyond the common endurance of humanity; but
while her child was left to her, everything was left. "Oh! my lord,"
she exclaimed, you must see that infant--the last bud of a wondrous
tree: you must let a mother hope that you will lay your holy hands on
her innocent head and consecrate her for female virtues. May I hope
it?" said she, looking into the bishop's eye and touching the
bishop's arm with her hand.
The bishop was but a man and said she might. After all, what was it
but a request that he would confirm her daughter?--a request, indeed,
very unnecessary to make, as he should do so as a matter of course if
the young lady came forward in the usual way.
"The blood of Tiberius," said the signora in all but a whisper; "the
blood of Tiberius flows in her veins. She is the last of the Neros!"
The bishop had heard of the last of the Visigoths, and had floating
in his brain some indistinct idea of the last of the Mohicans, but to
have the last of the Neros thus brought before him for a blessing was
very staggering. Still he liked the lady: she had a proper way of
thinking and talked with more propriety than her brother. But who
were they? It was now quite clear that that blue madman with the
silky beard was not a Prince Vicinironi. The lady was married and
was of course one of the Vicinironi's by right of the husband. So
the bishop went on learning.
"When will you see her? said the signora with a start.
"See whom?" said the bishop.
"My child," said the mother.
"What is the young lady's age?" asked the bishop.
"She is just seven," said the signora.
"Oh," said the bishop, shaking his head; "she is much too young--very
much too young."
"But in sunny Italy, you know, we do not count by years," and the
signora gave the bishop one of her very sweetest smiles.
"But indeed, she is a great deal too young," persisted the bishop;
"we never confirm before--"
"But you might speak to her; you might let her hear from your
consecrated lips that she is not a castaway because she is a Roman;
that she may be a Nero and yet a Christian; that she may owe her
black locks and dark cheeks to the blood of the pagan Caesars and yet
herself be a child of grace; you will tell her this, won't you, my
The friend said he would and asked if the child could say her
"No," said the signora, "I would not allow her to learn lessons such
as those in a land ridden over by priests and polluted by the
idolatry of Rome. It is here, here in Barchester, that she must
first be taught to lisp those holy words. Oh, that you could be her
Now, Dr. Proudie certainly liked the lady, but, seeing that he was a
bishop, it was not probable that he was going to instruct a little
girl in the first rudiments of her catechism; so he said he'd send a
"But you'll see her yourself, my lord?"
The bishop said he would, but where should he call.
"At Papa's house," said the Signora with an air of some little
surprise at the question.
The bishop actually wanted the courage to ask her who was her papa,
so he was forced to at last to leave her without fathoming the
mystery. Mrs. Proudie, in her second best, had now returned to the
rooms, and her husband thought it as well that he should not remain
in too close conversation with the lady whom his wife appeared to
hold in such slight esteem. Presently he came across his youngest
"Netta," said he, "do you know who is the father of that Signora
"It isn't Vicinironi, Papa," said Netta; "but Vesey Neroni and she's
Doctor Stanhope's daughter. But I must go and do the civil to
Griselda Grantly; I declare nobody has spoken a word to the poor girl
Dr. Stanhope! Dr. Vesey Stanhope! Dr. Vesey Stanhope's daughter, of
whose marriage with a dissolute Italian scamp he now remembered to
have heard something! And that impertinent blue cub who had examined
him as to his episcopal bearings was old Stanhope's son, and the lady
who had entreated him to come and teach her child the catechism was
old Stanhope's daughter! The daughter of one of his own
prebendaries! As these things flashed across his mind, he was nearly
as angry as his wife had been. Nevertheless, he could not but own
that the mother of the last of the Neros was an agreeable woman.
Dr. Proudie tripped out into the adjoining room, in which were
congregated a crowd of Grantlyite clergymen, among whom the
archdeacon was standing pre-eminent, while the old dean was sitting
nearly buried in a huge arm chair by the fire-place. The bishop was
very anxious to be gracious and, if possible, to diminish the
bitterness which his chaplain had occasioned. Let Mr. Slope do the
fortiter in re, he himself would pour in the suaviter in modo.
"Pray don't stir, Mr. Dean, pray don't stir," he said as the old man
essayed to get up; "I take it as a great kindness, your coming to
such an omnium gatherum as this. But we have hardly got settled yet,
and Mrs. Proudie has not been able to see her friends as she would
wish to do. Well, Mr. Archdeacon, after all, we have not been so
hard upon you at Oxford."
"No," said the archdeacon, "you've only drawn our teeth and cut out
our tongues; you've allowed us still to breathe and swallow."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the bishop; "it's not quite so easy to cut out
the tongue of an Oxford magnate--and as for teeth--ha, ha, ha! Why,
in the way we've left the matter, it's very odd if the heads of
colleges don't have their own way quite as fully as when the
hebdomadal board was in all its glory; what do you say, Mr. Dean?"
"An old man, my lord, never likes changes," said the dean.
"You must have been sad bunglers if it is so," said the archdeacon;
"and indeed, to tell the truth, I think you have bungled it. At any
rate, you must own this; you have not done the half what you boasted
you would do."
"Now, as regards your system of professors--" began the chancellor
slowly. He was never destined to get beyond such beginning.
"Talking of professors," said a soft clear voice close behind the
chancellor's elbow; "how much you Englishmen might learn from
Germany; only you are all too proud."
The bishop, looking round, perceived that that abominable young
Stanhope had pursued him. The dean stared at him as though he were
some unearthly apparition; so also did two or three prebendaries and
minor canons. The archdeacon laughed.
"The German professors are men of learning," said Mr. Harding, "but--
"German professors!" groaned out the chancellor as though his nervous
system had received a shock which nothing but a week of Oxford air
"Yes," continued Ethelbert, not at all understanding why a German
professor should be contemptible in the eyes of an Oxford don. "Not
but what the name is best earned at Oxford. In Germany the
professors do teach; at Oxford, I believe, they only profess to do
so, and sometimes not even that. You'll have those universities of
yours about your ears soon, if you don't consent to take a lesson
There was no answering this. Dignified clergymen of sixty years of
age could not condescend to discuss such a matter with a young man
with such clothes and such a beard.
"Have you got good water out at Plumstead, Mr. Archdeacon?" said the
bishop by way of changing the conversation.
"Pretty good," said Dr. Grantly.
"But by no means so good as his wine, my lord," said a witty minor
"Nor so generally used," said another; "that is, for inward
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the bishop, "a good cellar of wine is a very
comfortable thing in a house"
"Your German professors, Sir, prefer beer, I believe," said the
sarcastic little meagre prebendary.
"They don't think much of either," said Ethelbert, "and that perhaps
accounts for their superiority. Now the Jewish professor--"
The insult was becoming too deep for the spirit of Oxford to endure,
so the archdeacon walked off one way and the chancellor another,
followed by their disciples, and the bishop and the young reformer
were left together on the hearth-rug.
"I was a Jew once myself," began Bertie.
The bishop was determined not to stand another examination, or be led
on any terms into Palestine, so he again remembered that he had to do
something very particular and left young Stanhope with the dean. The
dean did not get the worst of it for Ethelbert gave him a true
account of his remarkable doings in the Holy Land.
"Oh, Mr. Harding," said the bishop, overtaking the ci-devant warden;
"I wanted to say one word about the hospital. You know, of course,
that it is to be filled up."
Mr. Harding's heart beat a little, and he said that he had heard so.
"Of course," continued the bishop; "there can be only one man whom I
could wish to see in that situation. I don't know what your own
views may be, Mr. Harding--"
"They are very simply told, my lord," said the other; "to take the
place if it be offered me, and to put up with the want of it should
another man get it."
The bishop professed himself delighted to hear it; Mr. Harding might
be quite sure that no other man would get it. There were some few
circumstances which would in a slight degree change the nature of the
duties. Mr. Harding was probably aware of this, and would, perhaps,
not object to discuss the matter with Mr. Slope. It was a subject to
which Mr. Slope had given a good deal of attention.
Mr. Harding felt, he knew not why, oppressed and annoyed. What could
Mr. Slope do to him? He knew that there were to be changes. The
nature of them must he communicated to the warden through somebody,
and through whom so naturally as the bishop's chaplain? 'Twas thus he
tried to argue himself back to an easy mind, but in vain.
Mr. Slope in the meantime had taken the seat which the bishop had
vacated on the signora's sofa and remained with that lady till it was
time to marshal the folk to supper. Not with contented eyes had Mrs.
Proudie seen this. Had not this woman laughed at her distress, and
had not Mr. Slope heard it? Was she not an intriguing Italian woman,
half wife and half not, full of affectation, airs, and impudence?
Was she not horribly bedizened with velvet and pearls, with velvet
and pearls, too, which had not been torn off her back? Above all,
did she not pretend to be more beautiful than her neighbours? To say
that Mrs. Proudie was jealous would give a wrong idea of her
feelings. She had not the slightest desire that Mr. Slope should be
in love with herself. But she desired the incense of Mr. Slope's
spiritual and temporal services and did not choose that they should
be turned out of their course to such an object as Signora Neroni.
She considered also that Mr. Slope ought in duty to hate the signora,
and it appeared from his manner that he was very far from hating her.
"Come, Mr. Slope," she said, sweeping by and looking all that she
felt, "can't you make yourself useful? Do pray take Mrs. Grantly
down to supper."
Mrs. Grantly heard and escaped. The words were hardly out of Mrs.
Proudie's mouth before the intended victim had stuck her hand through
the arm of one of her husband's curates and saved herself. What
would the archdeacon have said had he seen her walking downstairs
with Mr. Slope?
Mr. Slope heard also but was by no means so obedient as was expected.
Indeed, the period of Mr. Slope's obedience to Mrs. Proudie was
drawing to a close. He did not wish yet to break with her, nor to
break with her at all, if it could be avoided. But he intended to be
master in that palace, and as she had made the same resolution it was
not improbable that they might come to blows.
Before leaving the signora he arranged a little table before her and
begged to know what he should bring her. She was quite indifferent,
she said--nothing--anything. It was now she felt the misery of her
position, now that she must be left alone. Well, a little chicken,
some ham, and a glass of champagne.
Mr. Slope had to explain, not without blushing for his patron, that
there was no champagne.
Sherry would do just as well. And then Mr. Slope descended with the
learned Miss Trefoil on his arm. Could she tell him, he asked,
whether the ferns of Barsetshire were equal to those of Cumberland?
His strongest worldly passion was for ferns--and before she could
answer him he left her wedged between the door and the sideboard. It
was fifty minutes before she escaped, and even then unfed.
"You are not leaving us, Mr. Slope," said the watchful lady of the
house, seeing her slave escaping towards the door, with stores of
provisions held high above the heads of the guests.
Mr. Slope explained that the Signora Neroni was in want of her
"Pray, Mr. Slope, let her brother take it to her," said Mrs. Proudie,
quite out loud. "It is out of the question that you should he so
employed. Pray, Mr. Slope, oblige me; I am sure Mr. Stanhope will
wait upon his sister."
Ethelbert was most agreeably occupied in the furthest corner of the
room, making himself both useful and agreeable to Mrs. Proudie's
"I couldn't get out, madam, if Madeline were starving for her
supper," said he; "I'm physically fixed, unless I could fly."
The lady's anger was increased by seeing that her daughter also had
gone over to the enemy, and when she saw that in spite of her
remonstrances, in the teeth of her positive orders, Mr. Slope went
off to the drawing-room, the cup of her indignation ran over, and she
could not restrain herself. "Such manners I never saw," she said,
muttering. "I cannot and will not permit it;" and then, after
fussing and fuming for a few minutes, she pushed her way through the
crowd and followed Mr. Slope.
When she reached the room above, she found it absolutely deserted,
except by the guilty pair. The signora was sitting very comfortably
up to her supper, and Mr. Slope was leaning over her and
administering to her wants. They had been discussing the merits of
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