The Warden by Anthony Trollope


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Page 1

The Rev. Septimus Harding was, a few years since, a beneficed
clergyman residing in the cathedral town of ----; let us call it
Barchester. Were we to name Wells or Salisbury, Exeter, Hereford, or
Gloucester, it might be presumed that something personal was intended;
and as this tale will refer mainly to the cathedral dignitaries of the
town in question, we are anxious that no personality may be suspected.
Let us presume that Barchester is a quiet town in the West of England,
more remarkable for the beauty of its cathedral and the antiquity of
its monuments than for any commercial prosperity; that the west end
of Barchester is the cathedral close, and that the aristocracy of
Barchester are the bishop, dean, and canons, with their respective
wives and daughters.

Early in life Mr Harding found himself located at Barchester. A fine
voice and a taste for sacred music had decided the position in which
he was to exercise his calling, and for many years he performed the
easy but not highly paid duties of a minor canon. At the age of forty
a small living in the close vicinity of the town increased both his
work and his income, and at the age of fifty he became precentor of
the cathedral.

Mr Harding had married early in life, and was the father of two
daughters. The eldest, Susan, was born soon after his marriage; the
other, Eleanor, not till ten years later.

At the time at which we introduce him to our readers he was living as
precentor at Barchester with his youngest daughter, then twenty-four
years of age; having been many years a widower, and having married his
eldest daughter to a son of the bishop a very short time before his
installation to the office of precentor.

Scandal at Barchester affirmed that had it not been for the beauty of
his daughter, Mr Harding would have remained a minor canon; but here
probably Scandal lied, as she so often does; for even as a minor canon
no one had been more popular among his reverend brethren in the close
than Mr Harding; and Scandal, before she had reprobated Mr Harding for
being made precentor by his friend the bishop, had loudly blamed the
bishop for having so long omitted to do something for his friend Mr
Harding. Be this as it may, Susan Harding, some twelve years since,
had married the Rev. Dr Theophilus Grantly, son of the bishop,
archdeacon of Barchester, and rector of Plumstead Episcopi, and her
father became, a few months later, precentor of Barchester Cathedral,
that office being, as is not unusual, in the bishop's gift.

Now there are peculiar circumstances connected with the precentorship
which must be explained. In the year 1434 there died at Barchester
one John Hiram, who had made money in the town as a wool-stapler, and
in his will he left the house in which he died and certain meadows and
closes near the town, still called Hiram's Butts, and Hiram's Patch,
for the support of twelve superannuated wool-carders, all of whom
should have been born and bred and spent their days in Barchester; he
also appointed that an alms-house should be built for their abode,
with a fitting residence for a warden, which warden was also to
receive a certain sum annually out of the rents of the said butts and
patches. He, moreover, willed, having had a soul alive to harmony,
that the precentor of the cathedral should have the option of being
also warden of the almshouses, if the bishop in each case approved.

From that day to this the charity had gone on and prospered--at least,
the charity had gone on, and the estates had prospered. Wool-carding
in Barchester there was no longer any; so the bishop, dean, and
warden, who took it in turn to put in the old men, generally
appointed some hangers-on of their own; worn-out gardeners, decrepit
grave-diggers, or octogenarian sextons, who thankfully received a
comfortable lodging and one shilling and fourpence a day, such being
the stipend to which, under the will of John Hiram, they were declared
to be entitled. Formerly, indeed,--that is, till within some fifty
years of the present time,--they received but sixpence a day, and
their breakfast and dinner was found them at a common table by the
warden, such an arrangement being in stricter conformity with the
absolute wording of old Hiram's will: but this was thought to be
inconvenient, and to suit the tastes of neither warden nor bedesmen,
and the daily one shilling and fourpence was substituted with the
common consent of all parties, including the bishop and the
corporation of Barchester.

Such was the condition of Hiram's twelve old men when Mr Harding was
appointed warden; but if they may be considered as well-to-do in the
world according to their condition, the happy warden was much more so.
The patches and butts which, in John Hiram's time, produced hay or fed
cows, were now covered with rows of houses; the value of the property
had gradually increased from year to year and century to century, and
was now presumed by those who knew anything about it, to bring in
a very nice income; and by some who knew nothing about it, to have
increased to an almost fabulous extent.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Tue 25th Feb 2020, 6:54