Like Gaskell's description of the Thorntons' nouveau riche furnishing in North and South, Trollope's description in The Warden of "the well-furnished breakfast-parlour at Plumstead Episcopi" uses the techniques of realism to present a complex picture of economic class, social values, and characterization:

Comfortable they certainly were, but neither gorgeous nor even grand; indeed, considering the money that had been spent there, the eye and taste might have been better served; there was an air of heaviness about the rooms which might have been avoided without any sacrifice of propriety; colours might have been better chosen and lights more perfectly diffused: but perhaps in doing so the thorough clerical aspect of the whole might have been somewhat marred; at any rate, it was not without ample consideration that those thick, dark, costly carpets were put down; those embossed, but somber papers hung up; those heavy curtains draped so as to half-exclude the light of the sum: nor were these old-fashioned chairs, bought at a price far exceeding that now given for more modern goods, without a purpose. The break- fast-service on the table was equally costly and equally plain; the apparent object had been to spend money without obtaining brilliancy or splendor. The urn was of thick and solid silver, as were also the tea-pot, coffee-pot, cream-ewer, and sugar-bowl; the cups were old, dim dragon china, worth about a pound a piece, but very despicable in the eyes of the uninitiated. The silver forks were so heavy as to be disagreeable to the hand, and the bread-basket was of a weight really formidable to any but robust persons. The tea consumed was the very best, the coffee the very blackest, the cream the very thickest; there was dry toast and buttered toast, muffins and crumpets; hot bread and cold bread, white bread and brown bread, home-made bread and bakers' bread, wheaten bread and oaten bread, and if there be other breads than these, they were there; there were eggs in napkins, and crispy bits of bacon under silver covers; and there were little fishes in a little box, and devilled kidneys frizzling on a hot-water dish; which, by the bye, were placed closely contiguous to the plate of the worthy archdeacon himself. Over and above this, on a snow-white napkin, spread upon the sideboard, was a huge ham and a huge sirloin; the latter having laden the dinner table on the previous evening. Such was the ordinary fare at Plumstead Episcopi.

And yet, I have never found the rectory a pleasant house. The fact that man shall not live by bread alone seemed to be somewhat for- gotten. (Chapter 8, "Plumstead Episcopi")

What standards of taste does this passage invoke, and why does the following paragraph suddenly inject a first-person speaker?


Victorian Web Overview The Warden Anthony Trollope

Last modified 2000