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Posts Tagged "Pamela Neville-Singleton":

Trollope, Thou Shouldst Be Living At This Hour!

‘England hath need of thee,’ added Wordsworth in his plea, originally addressed to Milton. Oh, Anthony Trollope, if only we could turn to you now to champion the cause of the laity and common sense in the Church of England!


If youth is too valuable to be squandered by the young, perhaps the Church is too valuable to be entrusted to the priests as its sole guardians. Without seeking to go as far as the cartoon suggests in turning the priesthood into marionettes, operating only according to strings pulled by the laity, the present situation where the positions are reversed is not a happy solution either.  Keep the beard, but change the face into that of the present Archbishop of Canterbury. Forget the rest of the Anglican Communion for a moment, if the Church of England signs up to the Covenant, this will be the future governance of our Church, with the laity dancing to the Archbishop’s tune for eternity.


The present plan, according to information reaching me, is to tack discussion of the Covenant onto the end of the agenda for the General Synod in July, where it will be presented once again as a minor piece of ‘housekeeping’, almost an afterthought. What else comes before our lords and masters in July? Why, the issue of women bishops. Despite an overwhelming vote in favour throughout the country, approval of women bishops is by no means a foregone conclusion. Picture the scene. July may be hot and sticky. The delegates will doubtless drone on. Eventually (we hope) the appointment of women to the episcopate will be agreed. Tired, with falling blood sugar levels, and desperate to return to their hotels and a stiff gin, those present will sign almost any document put in front of them. However, before the meister spinners of Lambeth congratulate themselves too hard on the success of their prestidigitation, may I remind them of an earlier political genius from the other side of the Atlantic:

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

You do remember who said that, don’t you? Abraham Lincoln.


But, to return to our hero of the day. Why do I pick on Trollope rather than, say, Dickens? Well,  Trollope’s cast of characters comes from a much narrower range than does Dickens’. His body of work epitomises the relationship between the English people, their government, and their church. Of course, much has changed since Trollope’s day but the more things change, the more they stay the same. Trollope is said to have remarked:

The Church of England is the only church in the world that interferes neither with your politics nor your religion.

I have been unable so far to identify the source, but even if it is a case of se non è vero, è ben trovato, it does indeed capture the essence of Trollopianism.


The biographer of Anthony’s mother Fanny, Pamela Neville-Sington, wrote:

‘When he wrote his Barchester novels, Trollope did not look up at the sky but down at the earth.   He did not write about men’s spirituality but about their consciences.   He did not explore the clergy’s theological doctrines but their very human institutions.   This is why Trollope was so popular in his own day and why he remains so today.   His characters and their dilemmas are universal and still seem very real to us’.

 Trollopiana, Issue 75, 2006

But I have saved the best until last. I came across the following extract yesterday, which confirmed my thoughts about Trollope’s possible stand on the Covenant. It is one of those passages in which the author speaks as himself, the narrator makes his own position clear:

And yet it was from such a one that Mr Arabin in his extremest need received that aid which he so much required. It was from a poor curate of a small Cornish parish that he first learnt to know that the highest laws for the governance of a Christian’s duty must act from within and not from without; that no man can become a serviceable servant solely by obedience to written edicts;

Barchester Towers



The cartoon of Trollope dated 1872 is by Frederick Waddy (1848-1901), from made available under creative commons licence.

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