[Trollope most often creates his characters with precise, often quite brief sketches that detail their moral and psychological natures. In chapter 20, “Dr. Crofts,” Trollope takes a different tack, comparing the doctor to the three young men we have already encountered. Note how this passage begins with the widow Dale's view of Dr. Crofts and then switches to the narrator's. — George P. Landow]
Crosbie's way from Guestwick lay, by railway, to Barchester, the cathedral city lying in the next county, from whence he purposed to have himself conveyed over to Courcy. There had, in truth, been no cause for his very early departure, as he was aware that all arrivals at country houses should take place at some hour not much previous to dinner. He had been determined to be so soon upon the road by a feeling that it would be well for him to get over those last hours. Thus he found himself in Barchester at eleven o'clock, with nothing on his hands to do; and, having nothing else to do, he went to church. There was a full service at the cathedral, and as the verger marshalled him up to one of the empty stalls, a little spare old man was beginning to chant the Litany. "I did not mean to fall in for all this," said Crosbie, to himself, as he settled himself with his arms on the cushion. But the peculiar charm of that old man's voice soon attracted him;—a voice that, though tremulous, was yet strong; and he ceased to regret the saint whose honour and glory had occasioned the length of that day's special service.
"And who is the old gentleman who chanted the Litany?" he asked the verger afterwards, as he allowed himself to be shown round the monuments of the cathedral.
"That's our precentor, sir; Mr. Harding. You must have heard of Mr. Harding." But Crosbie, with a full apology, confessed his ignorance.
"Well, sir; he's pretty well known too, tho' he is so shy like. He's father-in-law to our dean, sir; and father-in-law to Archdeacon Grantly also."
"His daughters have all gone into the profession, then?"
"Why, yes; but Miss Eleanor—for I remember her before she was married at all,—when they lived at the hospital—"
"At the hospital?"
"Hiram's hospital, sir. He was warden, you know. You should go and see the hospital, sir, if you never was there before. Well, Miss Eleanor,—that was his youngest,—she married Mr. Bold as her first. But now she's the dean's lady."
"Oh; the dean's lady, is she?"
"Yes, indeed. And what do you think, sir? Mr. Harding might have been dean himself if he'd liked. They did offer it to him."
"And he refused it?"
"Indeed he did, sir."
"Nolo decanari. I never heard of that before. What made him so modest?"
"Just that, sir; because he is modest. He's past his seventy now,—ever so much; but he's just as modest as a young girl. A deal more modest than some of them."
. . . .
He was a little, withered, shambling old man, with bent shoulders, dressed in knee-breeches and long black gaiters, which hung rather loosely about his poor old legs,—rubbing his hands one over the other as he went. And yet he walked quickly; not tottering as he walked, but with an uncertain, doubtful step. The verger, as Mr. Harding passed, put his hand to his head, and Crosbie also raised his hat. Whereupon Mr. Harding raised his, and bowed, and turned round as though he were about to speak. Crosbie felt that he had never seen a face on which traits of human kindness were more plainly written. But the old man did not speak. He turned his body half round, and then shambled back, as though ashamed of his intention, and passed on.
"He is of that sort that they make the angels of," said the verger. "But they can't make many if they want them all as good as he is. I'm much obliged to you, sir." And he pocketed the half-crown which Crosbie gave him.. . ..
He sauntered slowly on over a little bridge; and at the gate of the hospital he again came upon Mr. Harding. "I was going to venture in," said he, "to look at the place. But perhaps I shall be intruding?"
"No, no; by no means," said Mr. Harding. "Pray come in. I cannot say that I am just at home here. I do not live here,—not now. But I know the ways of the place well, and can make you welcome. That's the warden's house. Perhaps we won't go in so early in the day, as the lady has a very large family. An excellent lady, and a dear friend of mine,—as is her husband."
"And he is warden, you say?"
"Yes, warden of the hospital. You see the house, sir. Very pretty, isn't it? Very pretty. To my idea it's the prettiest built house I ever saw."
"I won't go quite so far as that," said Crosbie.
"But you would if you'd lived there twelve years, as I did. I lived in that house twelve years, and I don't think there's so sweet a spot on the earth's surface. Did you ever see such turf as that?"
"Very nice indeed," said Crosbie, who began to make a comparison with Mrs. Dale's turf at the Small House, and to determine that the Allington turf was better than that of the hospital.
"I had that turf laid down myself. There were borders there when I first came, with hollyhocks, and those sort of things. The turf was an improvement."
- Septimus Harding: Description and Characterization
- Harding's Cello Music
- Hugh Walpole (1928) on Harding and Grantly, Trollopes's Great Characters
Trollope, Anthony. The Small House at Allington. Project Gutenberg E-text prepared by Andrew Turek and revised by Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D., and an anonymous Project Gutenberg volunteer.
Last modified 23 September 2013